How the Believers Respond to the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Zumar:

اللَّـهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّـهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّـهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ

Allah has sent down the best speech: a consistent and reiterating Book. The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it, then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah. That is Allah’s guidance, through which He guides whom He wills. And whomever Allah leads astray, then there is no one to guide him. [39:23]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote:

وقوله : { تقشعر منه جلود الذين يخشون ربهم ثم تلين جلودهم وقلوبهم إلى ذكر الله } أي هذه صفة الأبرار ، عند سماع كلام الجبار ، المهيمن العزيز الغفار ، لما يفهمون منه من الوعد والوعيد . والتخويف والتهديد ، تقشعر منه جلودهم من الخشية والخوف ، { ثم تلين جلودهم وقلوبهم إلى ذكر الله } لما يرجون ويؤملون من رحمته ولطفه ، فهم مخالفون لغيرهم من الكفار من وجوه : ـ

Allah’s statement:

تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ

The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it, then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah.

this is a characteristic of the righteous ones upon hearing the words of the Almighty, the Preserver, the All-Powerful, Oft-Forgiving. As a result of the promises, threats, and intimidation that they find in the Qur’an, their skins shiver over out reverence and fear.

ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ

then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah

due to the mercy and kindness of Allah that they hope and wish for. So they are distinct from from the disbelievers in a number of ways:

أحدها : أن سماع هؤلاء هو تلاوة الآيات ، وسماع أولئك نغمات لأبيات ، من أصوات القينات . ـ

Firstly: The believers listen to the recitation of these ayaat, while those disbelievers listen to the tunes of poetry by female singers. Continue reading

Allah Has Sent Down the Best Speech: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says al-Zumar:

اللَّـهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّـهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّـهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ

Allah has sent down the best speech: a consistent and reiterating Book. The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it, then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah. That is Allah’s guidance; He guides by it whom He wills. And whomever Allah leads astray, then there is no one to guide him. [39:23]

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote the following commentary on this ayah:

يخبر تعالى عن كتابه الذي نزله أنه { أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ } على الإطلاق، فأحسن الحديث كلام اللّه، وأحسن الكتب المنزلة من كلام اللّه هذا القرآن، وإذا كان هو الأحسن، علم أن ألفاظه أفصح الألفاظ وأوضحها، وأن معانيه، أجل المعاني، لأنه أحسن الحديث في لفظه ومعناه، متشابها في الحسن والائتلاف وعدم الاختلاف، بوجه من الوجوه. حتى إنه كلما تدبره المتدبر، وتفكر فيه المتفكر، رأى من اتفاقه، حتى في معانيه الغامضة، ما يبهر الناظرين، ويجزم بأنه لا يصدر إلا من حكيم عليم، هذا المراد بالتشابه في هذا الموضع. ـ

Allah informs us that His Book which He sent down is

أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ

the best speech

bar none, for the best speech is the speech of Allah, and the best revealed scripture made of Allah’s speech is the Qur’an. So since it is the best, then it is clear that its wordings are most eloquent and clearest wordings and that its meanings are the most sublime meanings, for it is the best of speech in terms of its wordings and meanings. It is

مُّتَشَابِهًا

mutashabih

consistent

in its beauty and unified nature and lack of contradiction. This is one of the meanings of the term mutashabih. The Qur’an’s unified nature and lack of contradiction is such that whenever a person contemplates and ponders it, he sees that it is consistent. This is even the case with its ambiguous messages which puzzle readers. So one will become certain that this could only come from the All-Wise, All-Knowing. That is the meaning of al-mutashabih in this context.

Continue reading

They Have Not Appraised Allah with His True Value: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah al-Zumar, Allah instructs His prophet:

قُلْ أَفَغَيْرَ‌ اللَّـهِ تَأْمُرُ‌ونِّي أَعْبُدُ أَيُّهَا الْجَاهِلُونَ * وَلَقَدْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ وَإِلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكَ لَئِنْ أَشْرَ‌كْتَ لَيَحْبَطَنَّ عَمَلُكَ وَلَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِ‌ينَ * بَلِ اللَّـهَ فَاعْبُدْ وَكُن مِّنَ الشَّاكِرِ‌ينَ * وَمَا قَدَرُ‌وا اللَّـهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِ‌هِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضُ جَمِيعًا قَبْضَتُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَالسَّمَاوَاتُ مَطْوِيَّاتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِ‌كُونَ

Say, “Is it other than Allah that you order me to worship, O ignorant ones?” * And it was already revealed to you and to those before you that if you should associate anything with Allah, your work would surely become worthless, and you would surely be among the losers.” * Rather, worship only Allah and be among the grateful. * They have not appraised Allah with true appraisal, while the earth entirely will be within His grip on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens will be folded in His right hand. Exalted is He and high above what they associate with Him. [39:64-67]

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

ـ { قُلْ } يا أيها الرسول لهؤلاء الجاهلين، الذين دعوك إلى عبادة غير اللّه: { أَفَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ تَأْمُرُونِّي أَعْبُدُ أَيُّهَا الْجَاهِلُونَ } أي: هذا الأمر صدر من جهلكم، وإلا فلو كان لكم علم بأن اللّه تعالى الكامل من جميع الوجوه، مسدي جميع النعم، هو المستحق للعبادة، دون من كان ناقصا من كل وجه، لا ينفع ولا يضر، لم تأمروني بذلك. وذلك لأن الشرك باللّه محبط للأعمال، مفسد للأحوال . ـ

قُلْ

Say: …

O Messenger, to these ignorant ones who call you to the worship of others than Allah

أَفَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ تَأْمُرُونِّي أَعْبُدُ أَيُّهَا الْجَاهِلُونَ

…. Is it other than Allah that you order me to worship, O ignorant ones?

meaning: this command issues forth from your ignorance, and otherwise it would not occur. For if you only knew how perfect and complete Allah is from every angle, and that He is provider of all blessings, and that He is the One deserving of worship to the exclusion of those who are deficient in every way, for they do not bring benefit nor do they cause harm – if you only knew these things, then you would not tell me to that! And that is because committing shirk with Allah invalidates one’s deeds and ruins one’s condition. Continue reading

How the Qur’an Uses Contrasting Pairs and Repetition: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah describes His Book in surah al-Zumar by saying:

اللَّـهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ

Allah has sent down the best speech: a mutashaabih and mathaani Book. [39:23]

The word “mathaani” [مَثَانِي] is often translated into English as “oft-repeated” or sometimes as “paired”. Also, when used in conjunction with “mathaani“, the word “mutashaabih” [مُتَشَابِه] is it is often translated as “consistent”. But as often happens in translation, the translated terms do not sufficiently convey the meaning of the original. In what follows, the great scholar of tafsir al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir provides some clarification and examples of these terms which can help the reader to better understand these two recurring features of the Qur’an.

Even before reaching surah al-Zumar, ibn Kathir draws the reader’s attention these features at their first occurrence in the mushaf under his commentary of 2:25 by writing:

لما ذكر تعالى ما أعده لأعدائه من الأشقياء الكافرين به وبرسله من العذاب والنكال ، عطف بذكر حال أوليائه من السعداء المؤمنين به وبرسله ، الذين صدقوا إيمانهم بأعمالهم الصالحة ، وهذا معنى تسمية القرآن مثاني على أصح أقوال العلماء ، كما سنبسطه في موضعه ، وهو أن يذكر الإيمان ويتبعه بذكر الكفر ، أو عكسه ، أو حال السعداء ثم الأشقياء ، أو عكسه . وحاصله ذكر الشيء ومقابله . وأما ذكر الشيء ونظيره فذاك التشابه ، كما سنوضحه إن شاء الله ؛ فلهذا قال تعالى : ( وبشر الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات أن لهم جنات تجري من تحتها الأنهار ) ـ

After having mentioned the pain and punishment that He has promised to those miserable enemies of His who disbelieve in Him and His Messengers, Allah then immediately follows that up by mentioning the condition of His joyful allies who believe in Him and His Messengers – those who actualize their eemaan with righteous good deeds. This is the essence of what the Qur’an refers to as Mathaani according to the strongest position of the scholars, a topic which we will discuss in more detail in its proper place. Essentially, Mathaani is to mention eemaan and then to follow that up by discussing kufr, or vice versa, or to mention the state of the people of ultimate joy and then the people of ultimate misery, or vice versa. In short, it is mentioning one thing and then contrasting it with its opposite.

Now as for mentioning something alongside a close corollary, that would be al-Tashaabah [i.e. their “mutashaabih-ness”], which is another topic that we will clarify in further detail, inshaAllaah.

So that is why [after having finished discussing the punishment of the disbelievers], Allah says: Continue reading

A Parable of Two Slaves: Ibn al-Qayyim

Allah strikes the following parable in surah al-Zumar:

ضَرَبَ اللَّـهُ مَثَلًا رَّجُلًا فِيهِ شُرَكَاءُ مُتَشَاكِسُونَ وَرَجُلًا سَلَمًا لِّرَجُلٍ هَلْ يَسْتَوِيَانِ مَثَلًا ۚ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Allah presents an example of one man owned by quarreling partners and another man belonging exclusively to a single man – are they equal in comparison? Praise be to Allah! But most of them do not know. [39:29]

The great scholar Ibn al-Qayyim commented on this ayah by writing:

هذا مثل ضربه الله سبحانه للمشرك والموحد فالمشرك بمنزلة عبد يملكه جماعة متنازعون مختلفون متشاحون والرجل المتشاكس الضيق الخلق فالمشرك لما كان يعبد آلهة شتى شبه بعبد يملكه جماعة متنافسون في خدمته لا يمكنه أن يبلغ رضاهم أجمعين . ـ

Allah has made this parable about one person who associates others with Allah and another person who singles Him out for worship. The one who associates partners with Allah is like a slave owned by a group of clashing, conflicting, and quarreling people. The word mutashaakis used in this ayah means one who has stiff and inflexible character. Similarly, when a person tries to worship multiple deities, he is like a slave owned by a group of people all competing with one another for his service, thus preventing him from being able to please them.

والموحد لما كان يعبد الله وحده فمثله كمثل عبد لرجل واحد قد سلم له وعلم مقاصده وعرف الطريق إلى رضاه فهو في راحة من تشاحن الخلطاء فيه بل هو سالم لمالكه من غير تنازع فيه مع رأفة مالكه به ورحمته له وشفقته عليه وإحسانه إليه وتوليه لمصالحه فهل يستوي هذان العبدان . ـ

On the other hand, when a person worships Allah exclusively, then he is like a slave with a single master. Such a person is completely at the service of his master and knows what his master wants and how to please Him. He is free from any joint-owners quarreling over him and is instead entirely in the service of his owner without any others clashing over him. At the same time, he enjoys the care, mercy, kindness, and goodness that his owner has towards him, and the fact that his owner considers his best interests. Continue reading

He is upon a Light from His Lord: Tafsir al-Tabari

Allah asks the question in part of surah al-Zumar:

أَفَمَن شَرَحَ اللَّـهُ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ فَهُوَ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ مِّن رَّبِّهِ ۚ فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْقَاسِيَةِ قُلُوبُهُم مِّن ذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ

So is one whose breast Allah has opened to Islam and he is upon a light from his Lord [like one whose heart rejects it]? So woe to those whose hearts are hardened against the remembrance of Allah. Those are in manifest error. [39:22]

The great mufassir Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari began his commentary of this ayah by writing:

يقول – تعالى ذكره – : أفمن فسح الله قلبه لمعرفته ، والإقرار بوحدانيته ، والإذعان لربوبيته ، والخضوع لطاعته ( فهو على نور من ربه ) يقول : فهو على بصيرة مما هو عليه ويقين ، بتنوير الحق في قلبه ، فهو لذلك لأمر الله متبع ، وعما نهاه عنه منته فيما يرضيه ، كمن أقسى الله قلبه ، وأخلاه من ذكره ، وضيقه عن استماع الحق ، واتباع الهدى ، والعمل بالصواب . وترك ذكر الذي أقسى الله قلبه ، وجواب الاستفهام ؛ اجتزاء بمعرفة السامعين المراد من الكلام ، إذ ذكر أحد الصنفين ، وجعل مكان ذكر الصنف الآخر الخبر عنه بقوله : ( فويل للقاسية قلوبهم من ذكر الله ) . ـ

Allah says: Is the one whom Allah makes a space in his heart for knowing Him, for affirming His unrivaled divinity, for completely submitting to His Lordship, for yielding to His obedience

فَهُوَ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ مِّن رَّبِّهِ

… and he is upon a light from his Lord

Allah is saying: so this person has clarity and certainty regarding what he is upon due to the light of truth in his heart, and because of that he is characterized by following Allah’s commands and turning away from whatever Allah has prohibited for him which he would otherwise like to do.

Is this person like the one whom Allah has hardened his heart, has made it devoid of His remembrance, has restricted it from heeding the truth, from following the guidance, and from doing what is right?!

Continue reading

Choosing the Best Over What is Merely Good: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah describes His servants in surah al-Zumar by saying:

الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَاهُمُ اللَّـهُ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمْ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

Those who listen to speech and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are people of understanding. [39:18]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee included the following valuable discussion inside his tafsir of surah al-Zumar. We have added section headings inside brackets for the sake of clarity and ease of navigation:

قوله تعالى : الذين يستمعون القول فيتبعون أحسنه . أظهر الأقوال في الآية الكريمة ، أن المراد بالقول ، ما جاء به النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ، من وحي الكتاب والسنة ، ومن إطلاق القول على القرآن قوله تعالى : أفلم يدبروا القول الآية [ 23 \ 68 ] . وقوله تعالى : إنه لقول فصل وما هو بالهزل [ 86 \ 13 – 14 ] . وقوله تعالى في هذه الآية الكريمة : فيتبعون أحسنه [ 39 \ 18 ] أي : يقدمون الأحسن ، الذي هو أشد حسنا ، على الأحسن الذي هو دونه في الحسن ، ويقدمون الأحسن مطلقا على الحسن . ويدل لهذا آيات من كتاب الله . ـ

[Explanation of Vocabulary and General Meaning]

Allah’s statement:

الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ

Those who listen to speech and follow the best of it [39:18]

Out of the various opinions regarding this noble ayah, the most apparent is that the intended meaning of the word “speech” in it is the divine inspiration of the Qur’an and the Sunnah which the Prophet (ﷺ) brought. One example of the word “speech” being used to refer to the Qur’an is Allah’s statement:

أَفَلَمْ يَدَّبَّرُوا الْقَوْلَ

Then have they not reflected over the speech… [23:86]

or His statement:

إِنَّهُ لَقَوْلٌ فَصْلٌ * وَمَا هُوَ بِالْهَزْلِ

Indeed, it is a decisive speech * And it is not amusement [86:13-14]

As to Allah’s statement in this noble ayah:

 فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ

… and follow the best of it [39:18]

meaning: they give precedence to the best – that which is the greatest good – over other forms of good which are lesser in goodness; they give precedence to the absolute best over just plain good. And there are a number of ayaat in Allah’s book which support this interpretation. Continue reading

“Are they equal, those who know and those who know not?”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah say in His Book in surah al-Zumar:

 ‏‏أَمْ مَنْ هُوَ قَانِتٌ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ سَاجِدًا وَقَائِمًا يَحْذَرُ الْآخِرَةَ وَيَرْجُو رَحْمَةَ رَبِّهِ قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ‏

Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, “Are they equal, those who know and those who do not know?” Only people of understanding will pay heed. [39:9]

The ‘allaamah ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di, in his famous book of tafsir, wrote the following:

هذه مقابلة بين العامل بطاعة اللّه وغيره، وبين العالم والجاهل، وأن هذا من الأمور التي تقرر في العقول تباينها، وعلم علما يقينا تفاوتها، فليس المعرض عن طاعة ربه، المتبع لهواه، كمن هو قانت أي‏:‏ مطيع للّه بأفضل العبادات وهي الصلاة، وأفضل الأوقات وهو أوقات الليل، فوصفه بكثرة العمل وأفضله، ثم وصفه بالخوف والرجاء، وذكر أن متعلق الخوف عذاب الآخرة، على ما سلف من الذنوب، وأن متعلق الرجاء، رحمة اللّه، فوصفه بالعمل الظاهر والباطن‏.‏

This is a comparison between the one who performs acts of obedience to Allah and other than him, and between the who with knowledge and the ignorant one. And this is one of the things which is intended to highlight the differences for the [possessor of] intellect, and cause one to know the distinction with certain knowledge. So the one who displays obedience to his Lord is not like the one who follows his own capricious desires. (Rather) he is Qaanit (devoutly obedient), meaning – obedient to Allah with the most virtuous of ibaadah, which is al-salaah, in the most virtuous of times, which is the night time. So Allah describes him with an abundance of deeds and their virtue, then He describes him with fear and hope, and He mentioned that which is related to fear of the punishment of the hereafter for what has already occurred of sins, and what is related to hope of the Mercy of Allah. So He characterized him with both apparent and concealed deeds. Continue reading

“Those who listen to speech and follow the best of it”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in His Book in surah al-Zumar:

وَالَّذِينَ اجْتَنَبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ أَن يَعْبُدُوهَا وَأَنَابُوا إِلَى اللَّـهِ لَهُمُ الْبُشْرَ‌ىٰ ۚ فَبَشِّرْ‌ عِبَادِ * الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَاهُمُ اللَّـهُ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمْ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

“But those who have avoided Taaghoot, lest they worship it, and turned back to Allah – for them are good tidings. So give good tidings to My servants, those who listen to speech and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are people of understanding.” [39:17-18]

Imam al-Sa’di explains this in his tafsir by writing:

لما ذكر حال المجرمين ذكر حال المنيبين وثوابهم، فقال‏:‏ ‏(‏وَالَّذِينَ اجْتَنَبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ أَنْ يَعْبُدُوهَا‏)‏ والمراد بالطاغوت في هذا الموضع، عبادة غير اللّه، فاجتنبوها في عبادتها‏.‏ وهذا من أحسن الاحتراز من الحكيم العليم، لأن المدح إنما يتناول المجتنب لها في عبادتها‏.‏

When Allah mentions the condition of the ­mujrimun (polytheists, sinners, criminals, the disobedient to Allah, etc.), He also mentions the condition of the repentant and their reward, so He said, “But those who have avoided Taaghoot, lest they worship it” – and the intended meaning here of al-Taaghoot is the worship of other than Allah, so avoid them and their worship. And this is one of the best acts of caution concerning al-Hakeem al-Aleem (The Wise and all-Knowing), because the commendation (from Allah, for this action) is only dealing with avoiding them and their worship. Continue reading

“Had Allah willed to take a son…”: Tafsir al-Sa’di and Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah سبحانه وتعالى says in surah al-Zumar:

لَّوْ أَرَ‌ادَ اللَّـهُ أَن يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا لَّاصْطَفَىٰ مِمَّا يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ ۖ هُوَ اللَّـهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ‌

Had Allah willed to take a son, He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He created. Exalted is He! He is Allah, the One, the Subduer. [39:4]

Imam al-Sa’di, in his book of tafsir, writes:

أي‏:‏ ‏{‏لَوْ أَرَادَ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا‏}‏ كما زعم ذلك من زعمه، من سفهاء الخلق‏.‏ ‏{‏لَاصْطَفَى مِمَّا يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ‏}‏ أي‏:‏ لاصطفى بعض مخلوقاته التي يشاء اصطفاءه، واختصه لنفسه، وجعله بمنزلة الولد، ولم يكن حاجة إلى اتخاذ الصاحبة‏.‏

Had Allah willed to take a son” as is the assertion of those who assert this from the fools of creation. “He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He created” – meaning He could have chosen whomever of His creatures which He willed to choose, and singled it out for Himself, and made it in the likeness of a son, and He did not need to take a consort.

‏{‏سُبْحَانَهُ‏}‏ عما ظنه به الكافرون، أو نسبه إليه الملحدون‏.‏

Exalted is He!” above what the kaafireen think of Him, or what the heretics attribute to Him.

‏{‏هُوَ اللَّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ‏}‏ أي‏:‏ الواحد في ذاته، وفي أسمائه، وفي صفاته، وفي أفعاله، فلا شبيه له في شيء من ذلك، ولا مماثل، فلو كان له ولد، لاقتضى أن يكون شبيها له في وحدته، لأنه بعضه، وجزء منه‏.‏

He is Allah, the One, the Subduer” – meaning: al-Waahid (the One) in His essence, His names, His attributes, and His actions. So nothing resembles Him at all in any of those things, and there is no likeness to Him. So if there was a son for Him, then it would necessarily have to resemble Him in His Oneness, because that is part and parcel of Him.

القهار لجميع العالم العلوي والسفلي، فلو كان له ولد لم يكن مقهورا، ولكان له إدلال على أبيه ومناسبة منه‏.‏

The Subduer (Al-Qahhaar) over all the world, from top to bottom. So if there were a son for Him, the son could not subdued, and he would have some importance in relationship to his father.

ووحدته تعالى وقهره متلازمان، فالواحد لا يكون إلا قهارا، والقهار لا يكون إلا واحدا، وذلك ينفي الشركة له من كل وجه‏.‏

And His Oneness and His Irresistible Power go hand in hand, for He cannot truly be al-Waahid unless He is a irresistibly powerful, and He cannot truly be al-Qahhaar unless He is singular, and this negates the idea of partnership with Him from every angle.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman, p. 719]

Imam ibn Kathir also addresses this ayah in his tafsir where he writes:

ثم بين تعالى أنه لا ولد له كما يزعمه جهلة المشركين في الملائكة، والمعاندون من اليهود والنصارى في العزير، وعيسى فقال: {لَوْ أَرَادَ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا لاصْطَفَى مِمَّا يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ} أي: لكان الأمر على خلاف ما يزعمون. وهذا شرط لا يلزم وقوعه ولا جوازه، بل هو محال، وإنما قصد تجهيلهم فيما ادعوه وزعموه، كما قال: {لَوْ أَرَدْنَا أَنْ نَتَّخِذَ لَهْوًا لاتَّخَذْنَاهُ مِنْ لَدُنَّا إِنْ كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ} [الأنبياء: 17] {قُلْ إِنْ كَانَ لِلرَّحْمَنِ وَلَدٌ فَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْعَابِدِينَ} [الزخرف: 81]، كل هذا من باب الشرط، ويجوز تعليق الشرط على المستحيل لقصد المتكلم.

Allah clarifies that He does not have a son, contrary to what the mushrikoon claim about the angels in ignorance, and what the obstinate ones from the Jews and Christians claim about ‘Uzair and ‘Eesaa (respectively). So He said, “Had Allah willed to take a son, He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He created” – meaning: However the matter is contrary to what they claim, and this hypothetical clause [that Allah has a son] is not a necessary occurrence, nor is it permissible. Rather it is impossible, and the only intent here is to demonstrate the ignorance in what they call to and assert. This is as He said, “Had We intended to take a diversion, We could have taken it from [what is] with Us – if [indeed] We were to do so”  [21:17], and “Say, “If the Most Merciful had a son, then I would be the first of [his] worshippers” [43:81], and all of this is from the category of hypothetical clauses, and it is permitted to predicate the clause on an impossibility for the sake of rhetorical argument.

وقوله: {سُبْحَانَهُ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ} أي: تعالى وتنزه وتقدس عن أن يكون له ولد، فإنه الواحد الأحد، الفرد الصمد، الذي كل شيء عبد لديه، فقير إليه، وهو الغني عما سواه الذي قد قهر الأشياء فدانت له وذلت وخضعت.

And His statement, “Exalted is He! He is Allah, the One, the Subduer” – meaning, Allah the Exalted purifies Himself from having an offspring. For He is the One, the Singular, and Unique, the One who is Perfect is all of His Attributes, to Whom everything comes to Him as a slave, in need of Him, and He is Free of Need from anything else, and He has exercised His Irresistible Power over all things.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 7/85]

See also: A response to those who say “We are the children of Allah”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: A reply to those who say, “If Allah can do anything, why can He not have a son?”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: A Principle to Dispel Specious Arguments and Doubts: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: The Messiah was only a Messenger and his mother was a ṣiddīqah: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: The story of ‘Eesaa, his mother, Zakariyyah and Yahya – Imam al-Sa’di