The Difference Between Contents of a Surah and Themes of a Surah

The following was written by Dr. Umar al-Muqbil, a professor in the college of Sharee’ah at Qassim University and a student of sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen, in a forum on the Markaz al-Tafsir website:

أما طريقة الفيروز أبادي قي كتابه “البصائر” فهي عرض للموضوعات الجزئية للسورة ،وليس للمقاصد . وفرق ـ فيما يظهر لي ـ بين سرد موضوعات السورة ،وبين بيان مقاصدها ،فالمقصد أو “المقاصد” تنتظم عدة موضوعات ،بخلاف الموضوعات. ـ

The approach of al-Fayruzabadi in his book al-Basa’ir was to list the contents of a surah, rather than its themes. And there is a difference – as far as I can see – between listing the contents of a surah and clarifying its themes, for the theme or themes of a surah deals with how the contents have been arranged and put together, in contrast to the “contents” approach.

مثال : (سورة المــدثــــــــــــر ). فبالنظر في كلام الفيروز أبادي نجد أنه ذكر لهذه عدة موضوعات على طريقته المعتادة . بينما هي عند التأمل ،والفحص نجد أنها تتحدث عن ( الدعوة ) . لقد بقيت ـ بفضل لفت نظر بعض أحبتي لذلك ـ أتأمل كثيراً في هذه السورة ،فوجدت أنه يمكن أن يقال عنها : إنها سورة الدعوة ( الأمر بها ، بيان صفات بعض المعاندين لها عند سماع الدعوة ،أو كيفية تعاملهم مع إمام الدعوة الأول ، ،وبيان مآلهم ،وبيان مآل أهل الدعوة ،والإشارة إلى أن الحق والباطل ـ في وضوحهما لمن هداه الله ـ كوضوح الصبح إذا أسفر ،ووضوح الليل إذا أدبر ،وأالإشارة إلى أن أهل الدعوة أقرب الناس إلى أن يورثوا التقوى وينالوا مغفرة الله تعالى ) . ـ

Let’s looks at the example of surah al-Muddathir. If we were to look at al-Fayruzabadi’s work, we would find that he lists its contents in his usual way. But with some further thought and investigation, we find that this surah is discussing the topic of da’wah. After this was pointed out to me by one of my close colleagues, I continued pondering and pondering this surah and I found that you could refer to this surah as surah al-Da’wah.

Continue reading

The Punishment of al-Rahman

Badr al-Deen ibn Jamaa’ah, one of the teachers of ibn Kathir, wrote the following in his book dedicated to explaining slight differences in the wordings of otherwise similar ayaat in the Qur’an:

مسألة: قوله تعالى: (أَنْ يَمَسَّكَ عَذَابٌ مِنَ الرَّحْمَنِ) ومناسبة مس العذاب: الجبار المنتقم؟ . وما فائدة تكرار ذكر ” الرحمن ” في هذه السورة أكثر من غيرها؟ . ـ

Question: Regarding Allah’s statement:

إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَن يَمَسَّكَ عَذَابٌ مِّنَ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ

[Ibrahim said to his father] “I certainly fear that a punishment from al-Rahman will touch you” [19:45]

Wouldn’t it be more fitting to use names like al-Jabbaar [the Mighty] or al-Muntaqim [the Vengeful] when discussing punishment afflicting someone?

Also, what should we understand from the repetition of the name al-Rahman [the Most Merciful] throughout this surah [surah Maryam] more than any other names? Continue reading

Take the Book with Determination: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Allah says in surah Mayam:

يَا يَحْيَىٰ خُذِ الْكِتَابَ بِقُوَّةٍ

“O Yahya, take the Scripture with determination!” [19:12]

Commenting on this, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote:

أي : وقلنا له يايحيى خذ الكتاب بقوة ، والكتاب : التوراة ، أي : خذ التوراة بقوة ، أي : بجد واجتهاد ، وذلك بتفهم المعنى أولا حتى يفهمه على الوجه الصحيح ، ثم يعمل به من جميع الجهات ، فيعتقد عقائده ، ويحل حلاله ، ويحرم حرامه ، ويتأدب بآدابه ، ويتعظ بمواعظه ، إلى غير ذلك من جهات العمل به

Meaning: We said to him, “O Yahya, take the Scripture with determination!”, and the Scripture is the Tawrah. So it means, ‘take the Tawrah with determination’ – meaning: with seriousness and striving.

This is done firstly by understanding the meanings such that one understands them in the correct way, then acting based on it from every angle; so one believes in its creed and considers halaal what it makes halaal and haraam what it makes haraam, and is molded by its etiquettes and moved by its admonitions, and so on and so forth with the various ways that one acts in accordance with the scripture. Continue reading

Gentle Speech in the Qur’an: ibn al-Qayyim

The great scholar ibn al-Qayyim wrote the following beautiful words regarding some qualities of the da’wah of the Prophets and the language found in the Qur’an:

كثير من الناس يطلب من صاحبه بعد نيله درجة الرياسة الأخلاق التي كان يعامله بها قبل الرياسة فلا يصادفها فينتقض ما بينهما من المودة وهذا من جهل الصاحب الطالب للعادة وهو بمنزلة من يطلب من صاحبه إذا سكر أخلاق الصاحي وذلك غلط فإن الرياسه سكرة كسكرة الخمر أو أشد ولو لم يكن للرياسة سكرة لما اختارها صاحبها على الآخرة الدائمة الباقية فسكرتها فوق سكرة القهوة بكثير ومحال أن يرى من السكران أخلاق الصاحي وطبعه

Many people would like it if a friend of theirs who has reached some level of leadership would treat them the same way that he used to before becoming a leader; however the friend will not agree and this leads to a break in the affection between them. But this is a result of the first person’s ignorance of reality. What he did is like if he were to ask a friend to behave the same way drunk as when he was sober. This is a mistake. Leadership is an intoxication, just like the intoxication of alcohol, or perhaps even stronger. For if leadership were not intoxicating, then no one would choose and prioritize it over the everlasting and eternal hereafter. Its intoxicating effect is much stronger than that of coffee. And it is impossible for a drunken person to exhibit the same behavior or character as a you would see from a sober person.

ولهذا أمر الله تعالى أكرم خلقه عليه بمخاطبة رئيس القبط بالخطاب اللين فمخاطبة الرؤساء بالقول اللين أمر مطلوب شرعا وعقلا وعرفا ولذلك تجد الناس كالمفطورين عليه وهكذا كان النبي رؤساء العشائر والقبائل وتأمل امتثال موسى لما أمر به كيف قال لفرعون هل لك إلى أن تزكى وأهديك إلى ربك فتخشى فأخرج الكلام معه مجرج السؤال والعرض لا مخرج الأمر وقال إلى أن تزكى ولم يقل إلى أن أزكيك فنسب الفعل إليه هو وذكر لفظ التزكي دون غيره لما فيه من البركة والخير والنماء ثم قال وأهديك إلى ربك أكون كالدليل بين يديك الذي يسير أمامك وقال الى ربك استدعاء لأيمانه بربه الذي خلقه ورزقه ورباه بنعمه صغيرا ويافعا وكبيرا ـ

It is for these reasons that Allah commanded one of his most honorable created beings to address the leader of the Egyptians with gentle speech. Addressing those in leadership positions with gentle speech is a positive thing according to the sharee’ah, according to reason, and according to custom. Because of that, you find that people are naturally inclined to do so. And that was how the Prophet behaved towards the leaders of the different tribes and clans. Consider the example of Moosaa when he received this command, look at how he addressed Fir’awn: Continue reading

The Themes and Contents of Surah Maryam: ibn Taymiyah

Sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah wrote the following words discussing the major themes of surah Maryam and outlining its contents. We would recommend reading this article with a Qur’an close by in order to better follow the different themes and topics mentioned:

سورة مريم قال شيخ الإسلام رحمه الله فصل ” سورة مريم ” مضمونها : تحقيق عبادة الله وحده وأن خواص الخلق هم عباده فكل كرامة ودرجة رفيعة في هذه الإضافة وتضمنت الرد على الغالين الذين زادوا في النسبة إلى الله حتى نسبوا إليه عيسى بطريق الولادة والرد على المفرطين في تحقيق العبادة وما فيها من الكرامة وجحدوا نعم الله التي أنعم بها على عباده المصطفين . ـ

Surah Maryam includes the following topics:

Affirming worship for Allah alone, and that the best of creation were those who devotedly worshiped Him. For every honor and elevated station lies in this relationship of the creation worshiping the Creator.

This surah also includes a rebuttal of those fanatical people who claim various additional and higher forms of relationship with Allah, to such an extent that they link ‘Eesaa (Jesus) directly to Him as an offspring.

It also includes a refutation of those who go to extremes in their affirmation of sevanthood and who deny the various blessings – such as the miracles given to righteous people – which Allah has bestowed upon His chosen servants.

افتتحها بقوله : { ذكر رحمة ربك عبده زكريا } وندائه ربه نداء خفيا وموهبته له يحيى ثم قصة مريم وابنها وقوله : { إني عبد الله } . . إلخ بين فيها الرد على الغلاة في المسيح وعلى الجفاة النافين عنه ما أنعم الله به عليه ; ثم أمر نبيه بذكر إبراهيم وما دعا إليه من عبادة الله وحده ونهيه إياه عن عبادة الشيطان وموهبته له إسحاق ويعقوب وأنه جعل له لسان صدق عليا وهو الثناء الحسن وأخبر عن يحيى وعيسى وإبراهيم ببر الوالدين مع التوحيد وذكر موسى وموهبته له أخاه هارون نبيا كما وهب يحيى لزكريا وعيسى لمريم وإسحاق لإبراهيم . ـ

Allah begins this surah by saying:

ذِكْرُ رَحْمَتِ رَبِّكَ عَبْدَهُ زَكَرِيَّا

a mention of the mercy of your Lord to His servant Zakariyyah [19:2]

and his calling His Lord with a private supplication, and Allah’s granting him Yahya, and then the story of Maryam and her son, and that son’s statement:

إِنِّي عَبْدُ اللَّـهِ

Indeed, I am a servant of Allah… [19:30]

until the end of the story. In this part of the surah, Allah makes a clear refutation against those who go to extremes regarding the Messiah, as well as rebutting those ill-mannered ones who deny the various blessings which Allah did bestow upon him. Continue reading

Those who neglect the prayers and pursue desires: Tafsir al-Shawkaani

In surah Maryam, Allah mentions a series of Prophets, and then describes some of their descendants by saying:

فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ أَضَاعُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَاتَّبَعُوا الشَّهَوَاتِ ۖ فَسَوْفَ يَلْقَوْنَ غَيًّا * إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَأُولَـٰئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا

But there came after them successors who neglected prayer and pursued desires; so they are going to meet evil * Except those who repent, believe and do righteousness; for those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged at all. [19:59-60]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani commented on this in his book of tafsir by writing:

ولما مدح هؤلاء الأنبياء بهذه الأوصاف ترغيبا لغيرهم في الاقتداء بهم وسلوك طريقتهم ذكر أضدادهم تنفيرا للناس عن طريقتهم فقال : فخلف من بعدهم خلف أي : عقب سوء . قال أهل اللغة : يقال لعقب الخير خلف بفتح اللام ، ولعقب الشر خلف بسكون اللام ، وقد قدمنا الكلام على هذا في آخر الأعراف أضاعوا الصلاة قال الأكثر : معنى ذلك أنهم أخروها عن وقتها ، وقيل : أضاعوا الوقت وقيل : كفروا بها وجحدوا وجوبها ، وقيل : لم يأتوا بها على الوجه المشروع . ـ

So after Allah had praised these prophets by mentioning these qualities as a means to encourage others to emulate them and follow in their footsteps, He then mentioned their opposites as a means to discourage people from their ways. So He said:

فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ

But there came after them successors

meaning: evil ones came after them. And experts in the language say: If you want to say that good followed something, then you say khalafun with a fathah on the letter laam, while if you want to say evil followed something, then you say khalfun with a sukoon on the letter laam. And we have already spoken about this in the end of surah al-Aa’raaf.  Continue reading

Inheriting al-Jannah: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In his tafsir of surah Maryam, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote:

قوله تعالى : تلك الجنة التي نورث من عبادنا من كان تقيا ، الإشارة في قوله : تلك [ 19 \ 63 ] ، إلى ما تقدم من قوله : فأولئك يدخلون الجنة ولا يظلمون شيئا جنات عدن التي وعد الرحمن عباده بالغيب الآية ، وقد بين جل وعلا في هذه الآية الكريمة أنه يورث المتقين من عباده جنته ، وقد بين هذا المعنى أيضا في مواضع أخر ، كقوله تعالى : قد أفلح المؤمنون الذين هم في صلاتهم خاشعون – إلى قوله – أولئك هم الوارثون الذين يرثون الفردوس هم فيها خالدون [ 23 \ 1 – 11 ] ، وقوله : وسارعوا إلى مغفرة من ربكم وجنة عرضها السماوات والأرض أعدت للمتقين الآيات [ 3 \ 133 ] ، وقوله تعالى : وسيق الذين اتقوا ربهم إلى الجنة زمرا الآية [ 39 \ 71 ] ، وقوله : ونودوا أن تلكم الجنة أورثتموها بما كنتم تعملون [ 7 \ 43 ] ، إلى غير ذلك من الآيات . ـ

Allah’s statement:

تِلْكَ الْجَنَّةُ الَّتِي نُورِ‌ثُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا مَن كَانَ تَقِيًّا

That is Paradise, which We give as inheritance to those of Our servants who exercised taqwa [19:63]

And the thing being indicated here by “That” refers to what came before this ayah, starting from Allah’s statement:

فَأُولَـٰئِكَ يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا * جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ الَّتِي وَعَدَ الرَّ‌حْمَـٰنُ عِبَادَهُ بِالْغَيْبِ

for those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged at all. * gardens of perpetual residence which the Most Merciful has promised His servants in the unseen. [19:60-61]

until the ayah.

In this noble ayah Allah clarified that those who exercise taqwa from among His slaves will be granted His Jannah as an inheritance, and He has also explained this meaning in a number of other places. For instance, His statement:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ * الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ

Indeed the believers have succeed * those who are characterized in the prayers with al-khushoo’ [23:1-2]

until His statement: Continue reading

An Example of Added Meaning from the Different Qiraa’aat

The different qiraa’aat (recitations) of the Qur’an are an important part of tafsir and the sciences of the Qur’an, but a subject which does not receive much discussion in the English language. We have translated a brief introduction to this matter from sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez bin Baaz, which we would recommending reading as a primer before proceeding with this article.

What follows is a simple and – inshaAllaah – easy-to-understand example of how the differences in the transmitted recitations can add to the meaning of an ayah, as illustrated in these excerpts from the tafsirs of sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee and imam Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. Please note that some level of familiarity with Arabic will greatly facilitate understanding this example.

In part of his explanation of surah Maryam, sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote the following:

قوله تعالى : واذكر في الكتاب موسى إنه كان مخلصا وكان رسولا نبيا ، اعلم أن في قوله ” مخلصا ” قراءتين سبعيتين : قرأه عاصم وحمزة والكسائي بفتح اللام بصيغة اسم المفعول ، والمعنى على هذه القراءة أن الله استخلصه واصطفاه : ويشهد لهذا المعنى قوله تعالى : قال ياموسى إني اصطفيتك على الناس برسالاتي وبكلامي الآية [ 7 \ 144 ] ، ومما يماثل هذه القراءة في القرآن قوله تعالى : إنا أخلصناهم بخالصة ذكرى الدار [ 38 \ 46 ] ، فالذين أخلصهم الله هم المخلصون بفتح اللام . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَاذْكُرْ‌ فِي الْكِتَابِ مُوسَىٰ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مُخْلَصًا وَكَانَ رَ‌سُولًا نَّبِيًّا

And mention in the Book, Moosaa. Indeed, he was mukhlasan, and he was a messenger and a prophet. [19:51]

You should know that there are two different readings of the word mukhlasan that are present in the seven well-known recitations. ‘Aasim, Hamzah, and al-Kasaa’ee recited it with a fathah on the letter laam, which makes it take the form of ism al-maf’ool (direct object). According to this recitation, the meaning is that Allah selected and chose him. And this meaning is attested to by Allah’s statement:

قَالَ يَا مُوسَىٰ إِنِّي اصْطَفَيْتُكَ عَلَى النَّاسِ بِرِ‌سَالَاتِي وَبِكَلَامِي

[Allah] said, “O Moosaa, I have chosen you over the people with My messages and My words…” [7:144]

And among the wordings in the Qur’an which resemble this reading is Allah’s statement:

إِنَّا أَخْلَصْنَاهُم بِخَالِصَةٍ ذِكْرَ‌ى الدَّارِ‌

Indeed, We chose them for an exclusive quality: remembrance of the home (of the Hereafter) [38:46]

For those whom Allah has chosen are the mukhlasoon, with a fathah on the letter laam. Continue reading

Ibrahim’s interactions with his father: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In surah Maryam, Allah recounts part of the story of Ibrahim and his calling his father and his people to al-Tawheed while he was still a youth. Commenting on part of this story, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote the following:

قوله تعالى : قال أراغب أنت عن آلهتي ياإبراهيم لئن لم تنته لأرجمنك واهجرني مليا قال سلام عليك سأستغفر لك ربي إنه كان بي حفيا

Allah’s statement:

قَالَ أَرَ‌اغِبٌ أَنتَ عَنْ آلِهَتِي يَا إِبْرَ‌اهِيمُ ۖ لَئِن لَّمْ تَنتَهِ لَأَرْ‌جُمَنَّكَ ۖ وَاهْجُرْ‌نِي مَلِيًّا * قَالَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكَ ۖ سَأَسْتَغْفِرُ‌ لَكَ رَ‌بِّي ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِي حَفِيًّا

[His father] said, “Have you no desire for my gods, O Ibrahim? If you do not desist, I will surely stone you, so avoid me for a prolonged time.” * [Ibrahim] said, “Peace be upon you. I will ask forgiveness for you of my Lord. Indeed, He is ever gracious to me. [19:46-47]

بين الله جل وعلا في هاتين الآيتين الكريمتين : أن إبراهيم لما نصح أباه النصيحة المذكورة مع ما فيها من الرفق واللين ، وإيضاح الحق والتحذير من عبادة ما لا يسمع ولا يبصر ، ومن عذاب الله تعالى وولاية الشيطان – خاطبه هذا الخطاب العنيف ، وسماه باسمه ولم يقل له ” يا بني ” في مقابلة قوله له ” يا أبت ” وأنكر عليه أنه راغب عن عبادة الأوثان ، أي : معرض عنها لا يريدها ; لأنه لا يعبد إلا الله وحده جل وعلا ، وهدده بأنه إن لم ينته عما يقوله له ليرجمنه ) قيل بالحجارة وقيل باللسان شتما ( والأول أظهر ، ثم أمره بهجره مليا أي : زمانا طويلا . ـ

In these two noble ayaat Allah clarified that when Ibrahim advised his father with the aforementioned sincere advice [19:42-45] along with what it contained of gentleness and softness, as well as making the truth clear and warning against the worship of those things which can neither hear nor see, and against the punishment of Allah and the alliance of the shaytaan – then his father addressed him with a forceful address and called him by his name rather than saying “O my dear son” to him in response to Ibrahim’s saying “O my dear father” to him, and he rebuked him for his being averse to the worship of idols – meaning, turning away from them and not desiring them since Ibrahim did not worship anything except Allah alone. And his father threatened him that if he did not desist from what he was saying, then he would certainly assault him – it is said with stoning and it is said with abusive speech, and the first opinion is what is apparent. Then his father ordered him to leave him malee’an – meaning a long period of time.

ثم بين أن إبراهيم قابل أيضا جوابه العنيف بغاية الرفق واللين في قوله : قال سلام عليك سأستغفر لك ربي الآية [ 19 \ 47 ] ، وخطاب إبراهيم لأبيه الجاهل بقوله : سلام عليك قد بين جل وعلا أنه خطاب عباده المؤمنين للجهال إذا خاطبوهم ، كما قال تعالى : وعباد الرحمن الذين يمشون على الأرض هونا وإذا خاطبهم الجاهلون قالوا سلاما [ 25 \ 63 ] ، وقال تعالى : وإذا سمعوا اللغو أعرضوا عنه وقالوا لنا أعمالنا ولكم أعمالكم سلام عليكم لا نبتغي الجاهلين [ 28 \ 55 ] ، ـ

Then Allah also clarified that Ibrahim responded to his father’s forceful answer with the utmost of gentleness and softness in his own statement:

قَالَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكَ ۖ سَأَسْتَغْفِرُ‌ لَكَ رَ‌بِّي ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِي حَفِيًّا

[Ibrahim] said, “Peace be upon you. I will ask forgiveness for you of my Lord. Indeed, He is ever gracious to me. [19:47]

And Ibrahim responded to his ignorant father with his own statement of, “peace be upon you” – Allah has clarified that that is the speech of the his believing slaves to the ignorant ones when the address them, just as He said: Continue reading

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

In his book of thematic tafsir, Imam ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di collected the details of the story of the prophet ‘Eesaa (Jesus), his mother Maryam (Mary), his uncle Zakariyyah (Zechariah) and his cousin Yahya (John) together along with a number of benefits from their stories together in one chapter, as follows:

 قصة عيسى وأمه ، وزكريا ويحيى عليهم السلام

The story of ‘Eesaa and his mother, and Zakariyyah and Yahya (‘alaihim al-salaam)

كانت زوجة عمران – وهو من أكابر بني إسرائيل ورؤسائهم وذوي المقامات العالية عندهم – نذرت حين ظهر حملها أن تحرر ما في بطنها لبيت المقدس، يكون خادما لبيت الله، مُعَدًّا لعبادة الله، ظنا أن الذي في بطنها ذكر، فلما وضعتها قالت معتذرة إلى الله شاكية إليه الحال : [ رَ‌بِّ إِنِّي وَضَعْتُهَا أُنثَىٰ وَاللَّـهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا وَضَعَتْ وَلَيْسَ الذَّكَرُ‌ كَالْأُنثَىٰ ]  أي أن الذكر الذي له القوة والقدرة على ما يراد منه من القيام بخدمة بيت المقدس

There was the wife of ‘Imran – who was one of the esteemed people and leaders of Banu Israa’eel (Children of Israel) and he held a high position in their eyes – who made a vow when it became apparent that she was with child that she would dedicate what was in her womb to Bait al-Maqdis – that it would be a servant for the House of Allah and dedicated to the worship of Allah – thinking that that which was in her stomach was a male. So when she delivered a female child, she made an excuse to Allah in defense of her situation,

رَ‌بِّ إِنِّي وَضَعْتُهَا أُنثَىٰ وَاللَّـهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا وَضَعَتْ وَلَيْسَ الذَّكَرُ‌ كَالْأُنثَىٰ

“My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, and the male is not like the female. [3:36]

meaning, the male is the one which has the ability and power to do what is desired of him in terms of fulfilling the role of a servant for Bait al-Maqdis. Continue reading