Did the Prophet make Tafsir of the Qur’an as it was Being Revealed?: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

At the end of a lecture entitled, “The Themes of the Different Surahs and the Effects of that on Understanding Tafsir“, sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh was asked the following question:

هل نزل القرآن وفسّره الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم. ـ

Question: Did the Messenger (ﷺ) explain the Qur’an as it was being revealed?

النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لم يفسر القرآن كله، وإنما فسر آيات قليلة، لما؟ لأنّ التفسير يتبع الحاجة، يُفسر بمعنى يبين المعاني، لمن لا يفهم المعاني، والقرآن نزل بلسان عربي مبين، فقهته العرب فهمت الآي، فهمته الصحابة، إلا في بعض الآيات لم تفهم ففسرها النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فالمنقول من تفسيره عليه الصلاة والسلام قليل، تفسير الصحابة أكثر من تفسير النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، لما؟ لأنّ الصحابة نقلوا للتابعين، والتابعون أقلّ علما بالقرآن من الصحابة لا من جهة اللغة، ولا من جهة أسباب النزول، ولا من جهة معرفة علوم القرآن، والعلوم المختلفة التي دار عليها القرآن، ولا من جهة السيرة، والتاريخ وأحوال العرب والجاهلية، إلى آخره، ففسروا القرآن أكثر، تفسيرهم أكثر، التابعون تفسيرهم لمن بعدهم أكثر من تفسير الصحابة لشدة الحاجة، هكذا إلى زمن التأليف والتصنيف كثرت التفاسير رغبة في أن يفهم الناس القرآن ويقبلوا عليه. ـ

Response: The Prophet (ﷺ) did not explain the entire Qur’an; he only explained a limited number of ayaat. Why? That is because making tafsir arises from a need to explain the meanings to those who do not understand them. But the Qur’an was revealed in the clear Arabic language, so the Arabs understood it, they understood its ayaat. The Sahabah understood it except in the cases of some ayaat which they did not understand, and so then the Prophet (ﷺ) would explain it. Continue reading

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On Modern Readings of the Qur’an and Sunnah: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, wrote the following series of posts on his social media page under the title “In Defense of Hadith” [الدفاع عن الحديث]:

Part 1

الشبه التي يقذفها الطاعنون في الحديث، أصبحت مجرد دعاوى، قد استبان كذبها، وكثرت الردود عليها؛ أقصد مثل شبهة : أن السنة لم تدون في زمن الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم. وشبهة أن الأحاديث متعارضة ومخالفة للواقع العلمي. والطعن في بعض الصحابة ورواة الحديث. هذه الشبه والحمد لله انتهت، فالردود عليها كثيرة. ـ

A number of doubts which those who disparage the hadeeth have devolved into baseless allegations, with their falsity having been made clear and many numerous refutations having been produced. I am referring to doubts such as that the sunnah was not collected during the time of the Messenger. Or the doubt that there are ahaadith which contradict and go against scientific knowledge. Or their disparagement of some of the Sahabah or the narrators of hadith. But these doubts have been put to rest – alhamdulillaah – for there are many refutations against them.

وقد اتجه اليوم الذين يريدون إبطال السنة إلى اتجاه آخر، عُرف بالقراءة العصرية الجديدة للسنة . فاتجهوا إلى : = الهرمونطوقيا. = الأنسنية أو الألسنية. = التفكيكية . = المقاصدية . ـ

But those who aim to invalidate the Sunnah today take a different approach, an approach known as “new modern readings of the Sunnah“. These people have turned to

  • Hermeneutical readings
  • Humanist or Linguistic readings
  • Deconstruction
  • Recourse to the Maqaasid

فاتجهوا إلى هذه الأساليب في قراءة نصوص الشرع، يحققوا هدفهم. فماذا هو الهدف من القراءة العصرية الجديدة للنصوص؟ ـ

So the have turned to these methods of approaching the texts of the Sharee’ah [i.e. the Qur’an and the Sunnah], thereby achieving their goals. But what is the goal of these new modern readings of the texts?

Part 2 Continue reading

Non-Canonical Recitations Can Help Explain the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

It is well-known to those familiar with the Qur’an that there are multiple canonical recitations (qiraa’aat) which are all authentic based upon meeting certain conditions and which add to the meaning of the Qur’an while not contradicting one another. Following from this, there are also non-canonical (shadh) recitations which do not meet these conditions for acceptance but can still be found within the books of tafsir and the sciences of the Qur’an. Some orientalists and missionaries attempt to use the mere existence of these non-canonical recitations to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Qur’an as a whole. This translated excerpt from the great scholar Imam al-Zarkashi explains one source of these non-canonical recitations and their value in understanding the Qur’an.

Badr al-Deen Muhammad al-Zarkashi, a student of the great mufassir Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir, is most well-known for authoring an extensive handbook for the Qur’anic sciences, al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an. What follows is one section from his chapter dealing with the Qiraa’aat [variant Qur’anic recitations]:

الأمر الثامن : قال أبو عبيد في كتاب ” فضائل القرآن ” : إن القصد من القراءة الشاذة تفسير القراءة المشهورة وتبيين معانيها ; وذلك كقراءة عائشة وحفصة : ( حافظوا على الصلوات والصلاة الوسطى صلاة العصر ) ( البقرة : 238 ) . ـ

The eighth issue: In his book Fadhaa’il al-Qur’an, Abu ‘Ubayd wrote:

One point behind a non-canonical recitation of the Qur’an is to act as an explanation of a well-known canonical recitation and to clarify its meaning. That is like the recitation transmitted from ‘A’ishah and Hafsah:

حَافِظُوا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَىٰ صلاة العصر

Strictly guard the prayers, especially the middle prayer – the ‘asr prayer [compare to 2:238]

وكقراءة ابن مسعود ( والسارق والسارقة فاقطعوا أيمانهما ) ( المائدة : 38 ) . ـ

Or like ibn Mas’ood’s recitation:

وَالسَّارِقُ وَالسَّارِقَةُ فَاقْطَعُوا أيمانهما

and the male and female thief – cut off their right hands [compare to 5:38] Continue reading

Zakah al-Fitr in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Baghawi

In the midst of surah al-‘Aalaa, Allah informs us:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّىٰ * وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّىٰ

He has certainly succeeded – he who tazakkaa * and mentions the name of his Lord and prays [87:14-15]

The word tazakkaa refers to purification, either purification of one’s self (such as in the related term tazkiyyah al-nafs) or purification of one’s wealth (such as in the related term zakah). In his commentary on these ayaat, the famous mufassir Abu Muhammad al-Husayn al-Baghawi wrote:

ـ ( قد أفلح من تزكى ) تطهر من الشرك وقال : لا إله إلا الله . هذا قول عطاء وعكرمة ، ورواية الوالبي وسعيد بن جبير عن ابن عباس وقال الحسن : من كان عمله زاكيا . ـ

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّىٰ

He has certainly succeeded – he who tazakkaa

who purifies himself from al-shirk and says laa ilaaha illallaah – there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah. This was the explanation of ‘Ataa’ and ‘Ikrimah, as well as being relayed from ibn ‘Abbaas by way of al-Waalibi and Sa’eed ibn Jubayr.

al-Hasan al-Basri explained it by saying, “Whoever’s actions are pure.”

وقال آخرون : هو صدقة الفطر ، روي عن أبي سعيد الخدري في قوله : ” قد أفلح من تزكى ” قال : أعطى صدقة الفطر . ـ

Meanwhile others say that this is referring to the zakah al-fitr. It is relayed from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri regarding this ayah that he explained it by saying, “[He has certainly succeeded – he who] gives the zakah al-fitr.” Continue reading

Connections and Links between Surahs: al-Zarkashi

In his well-known manual of the Qur’anic sciences, Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, sheikh Badr al-Deen al-Zarkashi dedicated an early chapter to the discussing the munasabat, or relationships and connections between different verses and surahs of the Qur’an. After defining the topic, discussing some of its history and mentioning some of the different opinions regarding this field of study, he wrote the following:

قال : والذي ينبغي في كل آية أن يبحث أول كل شيء عن كونها مكملة لما قبلها أو مستقلة ، ثم المستقلة ما وجه مناسبتها لما قبلها ؟ ففي ذلك علم جم ، وهكذا في السور يطلب وجه اتصالها بما قبلها وما سيقت له ” . ـ

He [Wali al-Deen al-Malwi] said:

What one ought to do with every ayah is first to look at whether this functions as a completion of what came before it of as an independent ayah on its own. Then, if it is an independent ayah on its own, how does it relate to the ayah before it? There is considerable knowledge to be found in this. And it is like this for the surahs too; one should look for how each is linked to what preceded it and how it supports it. Continue reading

How and Why the Sahabah used Israa’eeliyyaat Narrations: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

In his book devoted to the subject of Narration-based tafsir (al-Tafsir bi’l-Mathoor), sheikh Muhammad Bazmool included the following question and answer in response to an issue that has confused some people:

الاشكال الرابع : كثرة الروايات الاسرائيلية عن الصحابة ، ألا تمنع من اعتماد التفسير بالمأثور والرجوع إليه ؟

The Fourth Concern: There are many Israa’eeliyaat [Judaeo-Christian] stories transmitted from the Sahabah? Shouldn’t this stop up from relying of Narration-based Tafsir and making it our reference point?

والجواب : لا يصح عن الصحابة الكثير من الروايات الاسرائيلئة ، وما صح عنهم من ذلك لا يمنع اعتماد التفسير بالمأثور ؛ لأنهم إنما كانوا يوردونها تعجبا واستشهادا ، لا أصلا واعتمادا . ـ

The Response: There are actually not a large number of Israa’eeliyaat stories authentically transmitted from the Sahabah, but the material of this sort which has been authentically traced back to them does not stop us from relying on Narration-based tafsir. That is because they only relayed these stories out of amazement or as secondary supporting evidence, not as the basis for their understanding or the foundation of the explanations.

والموقوف الشرعي من الاسرائيليات بحسب نوعها . ـ

And the proper legislated approach towards Israa’eeliyaat narrations differs according to what kind of Israa’eeliyaat narrations they are.

فما خالف ما جاءنا في القرآن العظيم والسنة النبوية نوده . ـ

○ Whatever goes against what has come to us in the Qur’an or the Prophetic Sunnah or contradicts it, then we reject it. Continue reading

‘Ilm al-Munasabat and its Proper Place: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh, current minister of Islamic Affairs for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, mentioned what follows in part of a lecture entitled discussing thematic tafsir of the Qur’an:

فما المقصود بعلم مقاصد السور؟ معلوم أن الله جل جلاله هو الذي تكلم بهذا القرآن وأن القرآن كلامه ﴿وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّى يَسْمَعَ كَلَامَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ﴾ فالقرآن كلام الرب جل جلاله، ومقاصد السور يُعنى بها عند أهل هذا العلم: الموضوعات التي تدور عليها آيات سورة ما. يعني أن سورة من السور التي في القرآن أو أن معظم السور أو كل السور لها موضوع تدور عليه الآيات والمعاني التي في هذه السورة، إذا عُلم هذا المقصد؛ يعني هذا الغرض هذا الموضوع، فإن فهم التفسير سيكون سهلا، بل سيفهم المرء كلام الأولين، وسيفهم كلام المحققين بأكثر مما إذا أخذ الآيات مجردة عن موضوع السورة كما سيأتي في مثال نستعرضه إن شاء الله تعالى. ـ

What do we mean by “the study of the themes of surahs”? We all know that Allah is the One who spoke this Qur’an and that the Qur’an is His speech:

وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّى يَسْمَعَ كَلَامَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ

And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah. Then deliver him to his place of safety [9:6]

So the Qur’an is the speech of the Lord, and according to experts in this field, what is meant by the “major themes of the surahs” are the topics and subjects which the ayaat are centered around. Meaning, at least one of the Qur’anic surahs, or most of them, or even all of them have certain topics which their ayaat are centered around and certain meanings which the surah contains. So if this theme or this objective or this point is known, then understanding the meanings of the surah becomes easy. Even more than that, a person will be much better able to understand the statements of the early generations as well as those of the later-day scholars who weigh the various opinions compared to if he had just looked at the individual ayaat themselves without knowing the larger theme of the surah, as we will see by looking at some examples, inshaAllaah.*

وأصلا في بحث مقاصد السور لم يكن بحثه في تاريخ العلم مبكرا، فإنما بحث قبله بُحث يسمى المناسبات، والعلماء اختلفوا في موضوع المناسبات، ويعنون بها مناسبات الآي؛ هل الآية هذه جاءت بعد الآية لمناسبة؟ هل بين الآية الأولى والثانية رابط؟ والثانية والثالثة بينها مناسبة؟ هل هذه الآيات في نظامها بينها وبين موضوع السورة اتصال؟ هذا يبحث في علم التفسير ويبحث في إعجاز القرآن، ولهذا عد طائفة من العلماء أن من وجوه إعجاز القرآن، وهو المنزل آية وبرهان ومعجز للخلق أجمعين، أنّ من وجوه الإعجاز أن يكون للسورة موضوع تدور عليه، وأن يكون بين الآيات ترابط هذه الآية بعد تلك، هذه القصة بعد تلك لغرض معلوم. ـ

The start of investigating the maqaasid al-suwar [themes/objectives of surahs] did not begin at the earliest stages of Islamic scholarship. The research in this area that preceded this was known as “al-munasabat” [relationships, links, connections], and there are different views among the scholars regarding the subject of munasabat.

And when one talks about the munasabat of some ayaat, what they mean is: did this ayah come after that ayah for a certain reason? Is there a link between the first ayah and the second one? Or a relationship between the second and the third? Is there some sort of connection between the ordering of these ayaat and the theme of the surah as a whole? Continue reading

Five Distinguishing Features of the Tafsir of the Companions: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

In one section of a lecture entitled, “Introduction to the Fundamentals of al-Tafsir“, sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh mentioned the following points:

ـ 8 – ما تميزت به تفاسير الصحابة ـ
8. What Distinguishes the Companions’ Explanations of the Qur’an?

تميزت تفاسير الصحابة بأمور منها : ـ

There are a number of things which set the Companions’ explanations of the Qur’an apart from that of others. These include:

ـ 1- أنها تفاسير من عَلِمُوا القرآن ، وعَلِمُوا السُّنَّة لأنهم شهدوا التنــزيل ، ويعلمون سنة النبي وهديه – عليه الصلاة والسلام -. ـ

1. Theirs were explanations from those who knew the Qur’an and knew the Sunnah, for they have been witness to the revelation and has learned the Sunnah and guidance of the Prophet (ﷺ).

ـ 2- الميزة الثانية : أنها تفاسير من شاهد التنــزيل وعلم أسباب النــزول ، وقد قال شيخ الإسلام ابن تيمية في معرض كلام له ، ” العلم بالسبب يورث العلم بالمسبَّب ” ([37]) يعني إذا عَلِمْتَ سبب الشيءِ عَرَفْتَ المعنى ، عرفت توجيه الكلام ، عرفت المراد منه ، فعلمهم بأسباب النــزول ومشاهدتهم لأسباب النــزول يحعل تفاسيرهم في الغاية ، لأنهم شاهدوا وعلموا فلن يفسروا القرآن بشيء يخالف أسباب النــزول ، أو يخالف سنة النبي – عليه الصلاة والسلام – . ـ

2. The second distinguishing feature is that their explanations were explanations coming from those who had witnessed the revelation and knew the circumstantial reasons for the revelation (asbaab al-nuzool). In the midst of discussing this topic, sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah said, “Knowledge of the circumstantial reason behind the revelation produces knowledge of the underlying reason for the revelation,” meaning that if you learn the causal factors behind something that you will realize the meanings, know who is being addressed, and understand what is meant behind it all. So knowledge of the circumstantial reasons for revelation and having been witnesses to these reasons places their explanations in a high station. For they witnessed the revelation and had knowledge of it, so they would never explain the any part of the Qur’an with something that contradicted the reasons for why it was revealed or with anything that contradicted the Prophet’s Sunnah (ﷺ). Continue reading

The Best Methods of Explaining the Qur’an: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, wrote the following in a series of social media posts dealing with the fundamentals of al-tafsir:

افضل طرق التفسير ؛ ـ
The Best Methods of Explaining the Qur’an

ـ = تفسير القرآن بالقرآن وقد علمنا الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم هذه الطريقة كما مر في حديث استشكال الصحابة لقوله تعالى : (الذين ٱمنوا ولم يلبسوا إيمانهم بظلم) . فما أجمل في مكان فصل في آخر . ـ

Explaining the Qur’an by means of the Qur’an itself. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) taught us this method, as comes in the hadeeth where the Companions were confused by Allah’s statement:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يَلْبِسُوا إِيمَانَهُم بِظُلْمٍ

They who believe and do not mix their belief with thulm [6:82]

For whatever is left general in one place is explained in further detail in another.

ـ = تفسير القرآن بالسنة . فإن من وظيفة الرسول بيان معاني ما نزل إليه. وما مات الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم إلا وبين جميع ما نزل بطريق البيان النبوي وقد سبقت الإشارة إليها. ـ

Explaining the Qur’an by means of the Sunnah. One of the tasks of the Messenger was to explain the meanings of what was revealed to him, and the Messenger did not die until after he had explained all of what had been revealed to him through some method of Prophetic explanation which we have discussed elsewhere. Continue reading

Examples of Blame-worthy Opinion-based Tafsir: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

Sheikh Muhammad ibn ‘Umar Bazmool, a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, discusses some examples of “blame-worthy Opinion-based Tafsir“. For those not familiar with this term, you may want to read this article – The Difference Between Narration-based Tafsir and Opinion-Based Tafsir: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool – before proceeding:

أمثلة من التفسير بالرأي المذموم؛ ـ

Some Examples of Blame-worthy Opinion-Based Tafsir

قول باطنية الشيعة في تفسير قوله تعالى: (إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَنْ تَذْبَحُوا بَقَرَةً ) [البقرة: 67]، قالوا: هي عائشة. وقولهم في تفسير قوله تعالى: {فَقَاتِلُوا أَئِمَّةَ الْكُفْرِ إِنَّهُمْ لَا أَيْمَانَ لَهُمْ} [التوبة: 12]؛ هم أبوبكر وعمر. وهذا التفسير يخالف ما تقرر في الشرع من فضل أمهات المؤمنين، زوجات الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم. ويخالف ما تقرر في الشرع من فضل أبي بكر وعمر رضي الله عنهما، فهذا التفسير باطل لمخالفته المتقرر في الشرع على خلافه. ـ

○ The position of the Baatini Shi’a [those Shi’a who search for hidden meanings in the texts, regardless of whether the texts support those meanings or not] regarding the explanation of Allah’s statement:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَنْ تَذْبَحُوا بَقَرَةً

Indeed, Allah commands you to slaughter a cow [2:67]

is that this is referring to ‘Aa’ishah. And their position regarding the explanation of Allah’s statement:

فَقَاتِلُوا أَئِمَّةَ الْكُفْرِ إِنَّهُمْ لَا أَيْمَانَ لَهُمْ

then fight the leaders of disbelief, for indeed, there are no oaths to them [9:12]

is that this is referring to Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.

This first explanation contradicts the great virtues of the Mothers of the Believers, the wives of the Messenger (ﷺ), which are emphasized in the sharee’ah. And this second explanation contradicts the great virtues of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) which are also emphasized in the sharee’ah. So these explanations are invalid and false due to their complete opposition to what the sharee’ah affirms. Continue reading