Prophets with multiple names and the meaning of “Israa’eel”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Imam al-Qurtubi wrote the following under his tafsir of surah al-Baqarah (2:40):

وإسرائيل هو يعقوب بن إسحاق بن إبراهيم عليهم السلام قال أبو الفرج الجوزي ، وليس في الأنبياء من له اسمان غيره إلا نبينا محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم فإن له أسماء كثيرة ذكره في كتاب ” فهوم الآثار ” له . ـ

“Israa’eel” is Ya’qub ibn Ishaaq ibn Ibrahim (‘alaihim al-salaam), as Abu’l-Faraj al-Jawzi said. [And he also said:] “And other than him, there are no prophets which have two names other than our prophet, Muhammad (ﷺ)”, for indeed he had many names which he mentioned in the book “Fuhoom al-Aathaar“.

قلت : وقد قيل في المسيح إنه اسم علم لعيسى عليه السلام غير مشتق وقد سماه الله روحا وكلمة ، وكانوا يسمونه أبيل الأبيلين ذكره الجوهري في الصحاح . ـ

I [Imam al-Qurtubi] say: It has been said that al-Maseeh (the Messiah) is a proper name for ‘Eesaa (Jesus) (‘alaihi al-salaam) which is not derived. And Allah has named him as “Rooh” and “Kalimah“. And al-Jawhari mentioned in “al-Sihhaah” that Abeel (Abel) was named “Abeeleen”.

وذكر البيهقي في ” دلائل النبوة ” عن الخليل بن أحمد : خمسة من الأنبياء ذوو اسمين محمد وأحمد نبينا صلى الله عليه وسلم وعيسى والمسيح وإسرائيل ويعقوب ويونس وذو النون وإلياس وذو الكفل صلى الله عليهم وسلم . ـ

And al-Bayhaqi mention in “Dalaa’il al-Nubuwwah” on the authority of al-Khaleel ibn Ahmad, “Out of the Prophets, there are five who possess two names: Muhammad and Ahmad – our prophet (ﷺ); ‘Eesaa and al-Maseeh; Israa’eel and Ya’qub; Yunus and Dhu’l-Noon; and Ilyaas and Dhu’l-Kifl.” Continue reading

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Consideration is given to the completeness of the conclusion, not the defects of the beginning

Imam ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di authored a small book entitled Benefits Extracted from the Story of Yusuf (‘alaihi al-salaam). Composed of fifty chapters each detailing a specific benefit, he dedicated chapter six to the following topic:

الفائدة السادسة : العبرة في حال العبد بكمال النهاية

The Sixth Benefit: The Consideration of the slave’s state is according to the completeness of the conclusion

ومنها : أن العبرة في حال العبد بكمال النهاية ، لا بنقص البداية ، وذلك أن إخوة يوسف جرى منهم ما جرى من هذه الجرائم ، لكن في آخر أمرهم ونهاية تابوا إلى الله ، وطلبو السماح من أخيهم يوسف ومن والديهم الاستغفار ، فحصل لهم السماح التام والعفو الكامل فعفا الله عنهم و أوصلهم إلى الكمال اللائق بهم . ـ

And one of the benefits is: that the consideration of the slave’s condition is given to the completeness of his conclusion, not according to the deficiency of his beginning. That is because the brothers of Yusuf did what they did of their crimes, however in the end they repented to Allah, sought forgiveness from their brother Yusuf, and sought for their parents to seek Allah’s forgiveness for them. So he granted them total forgiveness and complete pardon, so then Allah pardoned them and caused them to attain a level of excellence which was appropriate for them.

قيل إن الله جعلهم أنبياء . كما قاله غير واحد من المفسرين في تفسير الأسباط : إنهم إخوة يوسف الاثنا عشر . وقيل بل كانوا قوما صالحين ؛ كما قال آخرون ؛ وهو الظاهر ، لأن المراد بالأسباط قبائل بني إسرائيل ، وهم اسم لعموم القبيلة لأولاد يعقوب الاثنى عشر فهم آباء الأسباط وهم من الأسباط . ـ

It is said that Allah made them prophets. As more than one of the mufassiroon have said concerning the explanation of “al-Asbaat” – that they are the twelve brothers of Yusuf. And it is also said: no (they were not prophets), rather they were a righteous people, as other mufassiroon have said – and this is what is apparent, because the intended meaning of “al-Asbaat” is the tribes of Banu Israa’eel (the Children of Israa’eel), and that is the general name for the tribes of the twelve sons of Ya’qub. So they are the forefathers of al-Asbaat and they are included in al-Asbaat. Continue reading

The story of ‘Aṭāʼ ibn Yasār and the bedouin woman

Ibn al-Jawzi, in his famous work iffah al-afwah, mentions the following story about the taabi’ ‘Aṭāʼ ibn Yasār. ‘Abdur-Rahmān bin Zayd bin Aslam narrated:

 وعن عبد الرحمن بن زيد بن اسلم قال خرج عطاء بن يسار وسليمان بن يسار حاجين من المدينة ومعهما أصحاب لهم حتى إذا كانوا بالأبواء نزلوا منزلا فانطلق سليمان وأصحابه لبعض حاجتهم وبقي عطاء بن يسار قائما في المنزل يصلي  قال فدخلت عليه إمرأة من الأعراب جميلة فلما رآها عطاء ظن أن لها حاجة فأوجز في صلاته ثم قال ألك حاجة قالت نعم قال ماهي قالت قم فأصب مني فإني قد ودقت ولابعل لي فقال إليك عني لاتحرقيني ونفسك بالنار

‘Aṭāʼ and (his brother) Sulayman bin Yasār went to run an errand outside al-Madinah along with some companions of theirs. When they reached the outskirts of the city, they stopped at a house to rest. Sulayman and his companions went to see to some of their needs, and ‘Atāʼ stayed in the house alone, praying. Suddenly, a beautiful bedouin woman entered upon him, so when ‘Aṭāʼ saw her, he assumed that she needed something from him, so he sped up his prayer a little and then asked her, “Is there something you need?” She answered, “Yes.” He said, “And what is that?” She replied, “Come and have your share of me, for I am filled with desire and I am without a spouse.” So, he said to her, “Get away from me, and do not cause me to burn in the Fire along with you!” Continue reading

The great blessing of being a guiding leader: Tafsir al-Sa’di

After mentioning the story of Ibrahim being thrown into the fire by his people, and his subsequent migration with Loot, Allah says in surah al-Anbiyaa’:

وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ نَافِلَةً ۖ وَكُلًّا جَعَلْنَا صَالِحِينَ * وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِ‌نَا وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْهِمْ فِعْلَ الْخَيْرَ‌اتِ وَإِقَامَ الصَّلَاةِ وَإِيتَاءَ الزَّكَاةِ ۖ وَكَانُوا لَنَا عَابِدِينَ

And We gave him Ishaaq and Ya’qoob in addition, and all [of them] We made righteous. And We made them leaders guiding by Our command. And We inspired to them the doing of good deeds, establishment of prayer, and giving of zakah; and they were worshippers of Us. [al-Qur’an 21:72-73]

Imam al-Sa’di, in his great book of tafsir, writes about these ayaat by saying:

{‏وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ‏}‏ حين اعتزل قومه ‏{‏إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ‏}‏ ابن إسحاق ‏{‏نَافِلَةً‏}‏ بعدما كبر، وكانت زوجته عاقرا، فبشرته الملائكة بإسحاق، ‏{‏وَمِنْ وَرَاءِ إِسْحَاقَ يَعْقُوبَ‏}‏ ويعقوب، هو إسرائيل، الذي كانت منه الأمة العظيمة، وإسماعيل بن إبراهيم، الذي كانت منه الأمة الفاضلة العربية، ومن ذريته، سيد الأولين والآخرين‏.‏ ‏{‏وَكُلَا‏}‏ من إبراهيم وإسحاق ويعقوب ‏{‏جَعَلْنَا صَالِحِينَ‏}‏ أي‏:‏ قائمين بحقوقه، وحقوق عباده، ومن صلاحهم، أنه جعلهم أئمة يهدون بأمره، وهذا من أكبر نعم الله على عبده أن يكون إماما يهتدي به المهتدون، ويمشي خلفه السالكون، وذلك لما صبروا، وكانوا بآيات الله يوقنون‏.‏

And We gave Him” when withdrew from his people “Ishaaq and Ya’qoob” the son of Ishaaq. “In addition” – i.e. after he had become old and his wife was barren, then the angels gave him glad tidings of Ishaaq “and after Ishaaq, Ya’qoob” [11:71]. And Ya’qoob is Israa’eel, from whom there was a great ummah. And there was also Ismaa’eel ibn Ibrahim, from whom there was a blessed Arab ummah, and from whose offspring was the sayyid of the first and the last.

And all of them” – Ibrahim and Ishaaq and Ya’qoobWe made righteous” – meaning: establishing and fulfilling His rights and the rights of His slaves. And because of their righteousness, He made them leaders guiding by His command. This is one of the greatest blessings of Allah upon a slave of His, that he would be a leader by whom the guided ones are guided, and the traversers of the path would follow in his footsteps. And that is because they exercised sabr and had yaqeen in the ayaat of Allah. Continue reading

“I complain of my grief and sorrow only to Allah”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

While recounting the story of His prophet Yusuf, Allah mentions the statement of his father Ya’qub. When his sons informed Ya’qub that another of his sons had been lost to him, Allah tells us his response:

قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَشْكُو بَثِّي وَحُزْنِي إِلَى اللَّـهِ وَأَعْلَمُ مِنَ اللَّـهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

He said: “I complain of my grief and sorrow only to Allah, and I know from Allah that which you know not.” [12:86]

Imam al-Qurtubi, in his book of tafsir, writes about this ayah:

قوله تعالى‏{‏قال إنما أشكو بثي‏}‏ حقيقة البث في اللغة ما يرد على الإنسان من الأشياء المهلكة التي لا يتهيأ له أن يخفيها؛ وهو من بثثته أي فرقته، فسميت المصيبة بثا مجازا

The statement of Allah, “He said: I only complain of my grief” the reality of al-bath [used here to mean grief] linguistically is what is broadcast among the people about those acts of destruction which are not able to be concealed, so calamities became termed as bath metaphorically.

وقال ابن عباس‏{‏بثي‏}‏ همي‏.‏ الحسن‏:‏ حاجتي‏.‏ وقيل‏:‏ أشد الحزن، وحقيقة ما ذكرناه‏.‏ ‏{‏وحزني إلى الله‏}‏ معطوف عليه، أعاده بغير لفظه‏.‏

Ibn ‘Abbaas said, “bathaa is affliction or grief”. Al-Hasan [al-Basri] said “[it means] need”. And it is said [that it means] the most severe sorrow. And the reality is what He mentioned to us, “and sorrow to Allah” covering him, leaving him speechless. Continue reading

“I will seek forgiveness for you from my Lord”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

Allah informs us in His Book about the story of His Prophet Yusuf (‘alaihis salaam) and highlights therein many important lessons for those who reflect. In the following ayaat, Allah informs us about the dialogue between Ya’qub (‘alaihis salaam) and his sons when thye inform him that Yusuf is still alive:

قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا اسْتَغْفِرْ‌ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا خَاطِئِينَ  قَالَ سَوْفَ أَسْتَغْفِرُ‌ لَكُمْ رَ‌بِّي ۖ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ‌ الرَّ‌حِيمُ

They said, “O our father, ask for us forgiveness of our sins; indeed, we have been sinners.” He said, “I will ask forgiveness for you from my Lord. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” [12:97-98]

Imam al-Qurtubi writes about this in his tafsir, saying:

قوله تعالى ‏(‏قالوا يا أبانا استغفر لنا ذنوبنا إنا كنا خاطئين‏)‏ في الكلام حذف، التقدير‏:‏ فلما رجعوا من مصر قالوا يا أبانا؛ وهذا يدل على أن الذي قال له‏ (‏تالله إنك لفي ضلالك‏‏ القديم)‏ بنو بنيه أو غيرهم من قرابته وأهله لا ولده، فإنهم كانوا غيبا، وكان يكون ذلك زيادة في العقوق‏.‏ والله أعلم‏.‏ وإنما سألوه المغفرة، لأنهم أدخلوا عليه من ألم الحزن ما لم يسقط المأثم عنه إلا بإحلاله‏.‏

Allah’s statement, “They said, ‘O our father, ask for us forgiveness of our sins; indeed, we have been sinners’” is an abbreviated statement. The implication is that when they [Ya’qub‘s sons] returned from Egypt they said, “O our father!“, and this is in place of the statement which was previously said to him -“By Allah , indeed you are in your [same] old error” [12:95] which was said by his grandchildren or someone else from the family, not by his sons, for certainly that is gheebah (backbiting), and that would be increasing them in the disobedience. And Allah knows best. And they asked him only for his forgiveness, because they brought a painful distress on him, and negative consequences of which could only be removed by making it right. Continue reading

The Tawakkal and Understaning of Ya’qub (‘alaihis salaam)

Allah says in His Book when He is informing us about Ya’qub‘s advice to his sons upon sending them back to Egypt, and his efforts to take precautions for their well-being and safety:

وَقَالَ يَا بَنِيَّ لَا تَدْخُلُوا مِن بَابٍ وَاحِدٍ وَادْخُلُوا مِنْ أَبْوَابٍ مُّتَفَرِّ‌قَةٍ ۖ وَمَا أُغْنِي عَنكُم مِّنَ اللَّـهِ مِن شَيْءٍ ۖ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّـهِ ۖ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ ۖ وَعَلَيْهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ

And [Ya’qub (Jacob)] said: “O my sons! Do not enter by one gate, but enter by different gates, and I cannot avail you against Allah at all. Verily! The decision rests only with Allah. In him, I put my trust and let all those that trust, put their trust in Him.” [12:67]

Imam al-Sa’di, in his tafsir, writes about this ayah, starting from ,”and I cannot avail you against Allah at all…”:

‏(‏وَ)‏ إلا فـ ‏(‏مَا أُغْنِي عَنْكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ‏)‏ فالمقدر لا بد أن يكون، ‏(‏إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ‏)‏ أي‏:‏ القضاء قضاؤه، والأمر أمره، فما قضاه وحكم به لا بد أن يقع، (‏عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ‏)‏ أي‏:‏ اعتمدت على الله، لا على ما وصيتكم به من السبب، (‏وَعَلَيْهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ)‏ فإن بالتوكل يحصل كل مطلوب، ويندفع كل مرهوب‏.‏

Allah says “and” – instead of ‘so’ – I cannot avail you against Allah at all”  for what is decreed must occur. “Verily! The decision rests only with Allah” – meaning the preordination is His preordination, and the command is His command, so His preordainment and ruling must happen. “In him, I put my trust” – meaning, I rely and depend upon Allah, and not upon what I sincerely advise you of the means to achieve your objective. “And let all those that trust, put their trust in Him” for with tawakkal, one achieves every objective, and drives away every fear.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman]

Imam al-Baghawi said about this ayah:

ثم قال: (وَمَا أُغْنِي عَنْكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ) معناه: إن كان الله قضى فيكم قضاء فيصيبكم مجتمعين كنتم أو متفرقين، فإن المقدور كائن والحذر لا ينفع من القدر، (إِنِ الْحُكْمُ) ما الحكم، (إِلا لِلَّهِ) هذا تفويض يعقوب أموره إلى الله، (عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ) اعتمدت، (وَعَلَيْهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ).

Then Allah said, “and I cannot avail you against Allah at all“. The meaning of this is: If Allah preordained for you a preordainment, then you will be afflicted with it whether you are all together or separated, for the decree must occur and caution cannot benefit one against the Divine Decree.Verily! The decision” – what Allah has ruled – “rests only with Allah” – this is Ya’qub‘s entrusting and consignment of his affairs to Allah (al-tafweedh). “In him, I put my trust” – meaning rely and depend upon – “and let all those that trust, put their trust in Him“.

[Ma’alim al-Tanzil (Tafsir al-Baghawi)]

Allah continues the story of Ya’qub and his sons in the next ayah, saying:

وَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَ‌هُمْ أَبُوهُم مَّا كَانَ يُغْنِي عَنْهُم مِّنَ اللَّـهِ مِن شَيْءٍ إِلَّا حَاجَةً فِي نَفْسِ يَعْقُوبَ قَضَاهَا ۚ وَإِنَّهُ لَذُو عِلْمٍ لِّمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ‌ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

“And when they entered from where their father had ordered them, it did not avail them against Allah at all except [it was] a need within the soul of Ya’qub, which he satisfied. And indeed, he was a possessor of knowledge because of what We had taught him, but most of the people do not know.” [12:68]

Imam al-Baghawi writes:

 ـ (مَا كَانَ يُغْنِي) يدفع (عَنْهُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ) صَدَق اللهُ تعالى يعقوبَ فيما قال، (إِلا حَاجَةً) مراداً، (فِي نَفْسِ يَعْقُوبَ قَضَاهَا) أشفق عليهم إشفاق الآباء على أبنائهم وجرى الأمر عليه، (وَإِنَّهُ) يعني: يعقوب عليه السلام، (لَذُو عِلْمٍ) يعني: كان يعمل ما يعمل عن علم لا عن جهل، (لِمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ) أي: لتعليمنا إياه. وقيل: إنه لعامل بما علم.
قال سفيان: من لا يعمل بما يعلم لا يكون عالما. وقيل: وإنه لذو حفظ لما علَّمناه. ـ
ـ (وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لا يَعْلَمُونَ) ما يعلم يعقوب لأنهم لم يسلكوا طريق إصابة العلم. وقال ابن عباس: لا يعلم المشركون ما ألهم الله أولياءه.

It did not avail them” – meaning it did not profit them – “against Allah at all” – and Allah spoke truthfully when He said about Ya’qub – “except a need” – an intention – “within the sould of Ya’qub, which he satisfied” – a concern for them which is the care and compassion of a father for his sons and that was his state. “And indeed he” – meaning Ya’qub (‘alaihis salaam) – “was a possessor of knowledge” – meaning he did what he did based on knowledge and not based on ignorance – “because of what We had taught him” – meaning, because of our teaching which was specific to him. And it is said, “because he acted according to knowledge.”

And Sufyan [al-Thawri] said, “He who does not act according to what he knows is not an ‘aalim.” And it is said, “Because he preserved what We had taught him.”

But most of the people do not know” what Ya’qub knew because they did not traverse the trials of the path of knowledge. And Ibn ‘Abbaas said, “the muskrikoon do not know what Allah has inspired to his awliya’

[Ma’alim al-Tanzil (Tafsir al-Baghawi) 4/259-260]

And Imam al-Shawkani wrote about this:

(وَلَمَّا دَخَلُواْ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَهُمْ أَبُوهُم) أي: من الأبواب المتفرقة ولم يجتمعوا داخلين من باب واحد. وجواب لما (مَّا كَانَ يُغْنِى عَنْهُمْ) ذلك الدخول (مِنَ الله) أي: من جهته (مِن شَئ) من الأشياء مما قدّره الله عليهم لأن الحذر لا يدفع القدر، والاستثناء بقوله: (إِلاَّ حَاجَةً فِى نَفْسِ يَعْقُوبَ قَضَاهَا) منقطع، والمعنى: ولكن حاجة كانت في نفس يعقوب، وهي شفقته عليهم، ومحبته لسلامتهم، قضاها يعقوب، أي: أظهرها لهم، ووصاهم بها غير معتقد أن للتدبير الذي دبره لهم تأثيراً في دفع ما قضاه الله عليهم. وقيل: إنه خطر ببال يعقوب أن الملك إذا رآهم مجتمعين مع ما يظهر فيهم من كمال الخلقة، وسيما الشجاعة أوقع بهم حسداً وحقداً أو خوفاً منهم، فأمرهم بالتفرّق لهذه العلة.

And when they entered from where their father had ordered them” – meaning through different gates and not to enter all together through one gate. And the outcome of that was “it did not avail them” – entering in that way – “against Allah” – meaning against His authority – “at all” of anything against what Allah had decreed for them, for caution does not repel qadr. And the exception is His statement, “except a need within the soul of Ya’qub, which he satisfied” – meaning that although the need was in the soul of Ya’cub, and he was concerned for them, and loved for them to remain safe, Ya’qub did that, meaning that he expressed that to them, and advised them with that without believing that the measures which he took for them would result in repelling what Allah had preordained for them. And it is said, “the risk in the mind of Ya’cub was that if the king saw them all together with what they exhibited of exquisite appearances, especially in valor, then he would be afflicted with envy and hatred or fear of them, so he ordered them to separate for this reason.”

And Imam al-Shawkani went on to write:

 (وَإِنَّهُ لَذُو عِلْمٍ لّمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ) أي: وإن يعقوب لصاحب علم لأجل تعليم الله إياه بما أوحاه الله من أن الحذر لا يدفع القدر، وأن ما قضاه الله سبحانه فهو كائن لا محالة. (ولكن أَكْثَرَ الناس لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ) بذلك كما ينبغي. وقيل: لا يعلمون أن الحذر مندوب إليه، وإن كان لا يغني من القدر شيئاً، والسياق يدفعه. وقيل: المراد بأكثر الناس المشركون.

And indeed, he was a possessor of knowledge because of what We had taught him” – meaning that Ya’qub was a possessor of knowledge due to the teaching which Allah had specifically given him from what Allah had inspired to him that caution does not repel qadr, and that whatever Allah the Exalted has preordained will happen without any doubt.But most of the people do not know” that to the extent that they should. And it is said, “they do not know that caution is regrettable for them, and that it cannot avail one anything against Allah’s decree (qadr), nor repel it.” And it is said that “it means that most of the people are polytheists”.

[Fath al-Qadeer]

For more on the merits of Ya’qub (alaihis salaam), see also:

I will seek forgiveness for you from my Lord: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

“I complain of my grief and sorrow only to Allah”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

See also: “And whoever places their reliance upon Allah, then He is sufficient for him”: Ibn Hajr

See also: The supplication is granted so long as one does not show impatience: Ibn Hajr

See also: The Qur’anic Ayaat on Love – Part 2: Those whom Allah Loves