Topic 1: Introduction to the different approaches of tafseer (pp 156-161)
Topic 2: Introduction to Tafseer bi-l-Mathoor (pp 161)
Topic 3: The major works of al Tafseer bi-l-Mathoor (pp 168-180, 200-205)
Topic 4: Israeeliyaat and Fabricated Reports (pp 161-168)There is a proper and correct way to make tafseer. You can establish principles from the Quran and Sunnah and how you are supposed to understand and approach the Quran.
What are the sources of tafseer?
The Quran is the first source of tafseer. The Quran is internally consistent. Allah swt says, do they no not ponder over the Quran, if it was from somebody other than Allah, then you would find contradictions in it....
There are some verses in the Quran which are clear in its meaning and are not open to interpretations.
How would you know that a verse is open for interpretation?
You need to have knowledge of the Arabic language and be able to recognize that the word is open for interpretations. For example the word Asad, it could mean lion or a very courageous man. If I said, Asad entered the room, you will not panic.
Can you apply this principle of whether a word is open to interpretation or not based on your reading of an english translation. The languages are different. A word that you choose might not be open for interpretation. A translator has to choose a word, The original word might be open for interpretation but it is not captured in the translation.
Allah swt gave us this principle, which is understanding a verse of the Quran in light of other verses of the Quran.
Ali-Imran verse 7 is one of the often mistranslated verses of the Quran.
هو الذي أنزل عليك الكتاب منه آيات محكمات هن أم الكتاب وأخر متشابهات فأما الذين في قلوبهم زيغ فيتبعون ما تشابه منه ابتغاء الفتنة وابتغاء تأويله وما يعلم تأويله إلا الله والراسخون في العلم يقولون آمنا به كل من عند ربنا وما يذكر إلا أولو الألباب
It is He Who has sent down to you (Muhammad SAW) the Book (this Quran). In it are Verses that are entirely clear, they are the foundations of the Book [and those are the Verses of Al-Ahkam (commandments, etc.), Al-Fara'id (obligatory duties) and Al-Hudud (legal laws for the punishment of thieves, adulterers, etc.)]; and others not entirely clear. So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation (from the truth) they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof, seeking Al-Fitnah (polytheism and trials, etc.), and seeking for its hidden meanings, but none knows its hidden meanings save Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in it; the whole of it (clear and unclear Verses) are from our Lord." And none receive admonition except men of understanding. (Tafsir At-Tabari).
We should understand the Mutashabihaat verses in light of the Muhkamaat verses (the verses which are not open to interpretation.
Parts of the Quran explain other parts of the Quran. For example Surah Baqarah verse 37 making taubah to Allah swt
فتلقى آدم من ربه كلمات فتاب عليه إنه هو التواب الرحيم
Then Adam received from his Lord Words . And his Lord pardoned him (accepted his repentance). Verily, He is the One Who forgives (accepts repentance), the Most Merciful.
The words that Adam used for repentance are not mentioned in this verse, however they are mentioned in al-A’raaf, which were revealed to Adam to make the repentance.
So the ayaat are not meant to be in contradiction with others, but rather used as an explanation for other ayaat.
Quran is the first source of tafseer is agreed upon by all of the scholars of tafseer. Many of the principles of tafseer are derived from the Quran itself and we can present the evidence for those principles. They are discussed in the textbook in second chapter.
We also have Sunnah as source of tafseer. It is an extremely important source of tafseer. When Allah swt describes prophet, when he sent him to the ummah, how Allah swt blessed us by sending us the prophet. In the verses of the Quran, Allah swt describes prophet as a teacher or reciter of the Quran to teach us. He also says, prophet teaches book and wisdom. Prophet is conveying us the message that he is receiving and in addition to that, he is teaching us the book. It was one of the most important roles of the prophet to explain to us the Quran.
Quran and Sunnah should go together. Both are guidance and revelation from Allah swt. We should learn how the prophet explained and implemented the Quran. Even some of the most basic commands of the Quran, Allah swt did not give us the details of the salat in the Quran, he commands us to establish the salaat, but he does not describe how to perform the salaat is not in the Quran. How do we establish the Salaat? We can only know that by looking to the sunnah of the prophet. The basic pillars of Islam, the details of them are left to the Sunnah of the prophet. His guidance is essential for us to understand the Quran.
There are many places in the Quran, where the only way we know the intention or meaning of the Quran is by an explanation of that verse by the prophet. For example, what is the punishment for a thief? Yad in the arabic language is the whole arm. A verse in the Quran about wudu, Allah swt says wash your yad upto the elbow. So how do we know what yad means in the verse of punishment for a thief? If somebody is an expert in Arabic language, can they tell us what yad means? No. The only way we would know is through the application of the command by the sunnah of the prophet.
Allah swt is demonstrating to us, that we need the sunnah of the prophet to understand the Qur’an.
Surah al Anam verse 82
الذين آمنوا ولم يلبسوا إيمانهم بظلم أولئك لهم الأمن وهم مهتدون
It is those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah and worship none but Him Alone) and confuse not their belief with Dhulm (wrong i.e. by worshipping others besides Allah), for them (only) there is security and they are the guided.
What is the meaning of dhulm in the above verse?
This verse was very difficult for the sahaba, because the way they understood dhulm, was anybody who mixes dhulm or injustice with their imaan would not be rightly guided. They came to the prophet and explained their worries. The prophet explained that, that is not what Allah swt meant here, the meaning of the word dhulm is shirk. And then he quoted another verse of the Quran, Surah Luqmaan verse 13, which again highlights another principle of tafseer.
وإذ قال لقمان لابنه وهو يعظه يا بني لا تشرك بالله إن الشرك لظلم عظيم
And (remember) when Luqman said to his son when he was advising him: "O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily! Joining others in worship with Allah is a great Dhulm (wrong) indeed.
Another example, what is the verse that shows us to shorten our prayers while traveling?
Surah Nisa verse 101 explains
وإذا ضربتم في الأرض فليس عليكم جناح أن تقصروا من الصلاة إن خفتم أن يفتنكم الذين كفروا إن الكافرين كانوا لكم عدوّا مبينا
And when you (Muslims) travel in the land, there is no sin on you if you shorten your Salat (prayer) if you fear that the disbelievers may attack you, verily, the disbelievers are ever unto you open enemies.
Umar ibn khattab asked prophet about this verse, since in this verse it is only mentioned if you fear attack from enemies. He wanted to know if we are no longer in fear, do we still have to shorten the prayer? The prophet answered, that it is a rukhsa or gift from Allah swt and we can shorten the prayers while we travel.
Another source of tafseer is the Arabic language. The quran states that it is in Arabic language twelve times. So it must be an important factor.
You cannot interpret the Quran in a way that it contradicts another verse of the Quran, then that interpretation of the verse must be rejected.
Another source of tafseer is the companions of the prophet and how they understood the Quran and implemented the Quran as a source of tafseer.
What are some of the most important qualities of the sahaba that should make us look at the sahaba as a source of tafseer?
Allah swt says that he is pleased with them, Allah swt describes them as the best of the mankind
Various sources of tafseer:
3. Arabic Language
If anybody interprets Quran in such a way that it contradicts the above three sources, then it has to be rejected.
What is the role of the companions (sahaabah) as a source of tafseer and how important is their role? What are some of the qualities that sahaabah had that made them source of tafseer?
1. They lived the events of the revelation, different battles, different incidents,
2. Allah swt has declared His pleasure for them and is pleased with them.
3. They learnt from the prophet on how to interpret and implement the Qur’an.
4. Quran was revealed in their language.
5. There are many verses in the Quran that prohibited the actions of Jahiliyaah and the sahaaba were aware of the aspects of Jahiliyaah.
6. They had access to the one (the prophet) who knew how the Quran was to be understood,
7. Prophet saw how they were implementing and understanding the Quran, if they misunderstood it, then it was obligation of the prophet to correct them and teach them. The prophet approved of the way they understood and implemented the Quran. Important concepts such as Imaan, Kufr, Ibaadat, etc.
8. Specific individuals were praised by the prophet and he made dua for Ibn Abbas
If our understanding of the Quran contradicts the understanding of the sahaaba as a whole then our understanding is incorrect. Of course the sahaaba individually might have disagreed about certain matters.
What about the tabieen, the generation after the sahaaba?
The prophet described his generation as the best and then the generation that came after. Most of their knowledge came from sahaaba. They don’t have the same status as the sahaaba.
Main principles related to tafseer are derived from the sources as listed above. They give us a way of understanding the quran, a methodology.
If you approach the Quran without following a proper methodology and start understanding or explaining the Quran, there is good chance if they do this, their understanding will be incorrect.
Hadith (Weak): Whoever speaks about the Quran according to his own opinion then he should take his seat in the hell fire
Hadith (Weak): If someone speaks about the Quran, even if he is correct in what he says then he has still made a mistake
Although the above Hadith’s are weak, we have statements from the Sahaba that support the same meaning (i.e. Ibn Abbas, Abu Bakr and Umar)
Correct Methodology to approach the Quran
If we want to make sure that we have the correct methodology or asbaab, and it has to be followed by a ikhlaas (sincerity to Allah swt). You have to remove bias and desires when you approach the Quran, you need to be objective.
One of the biggest problem is that people approach the Quran with a final conclusion already made up in their mind, and they are trying to find supporting evidence for the conclusions, for example, the various bidah groups (sects) approach the Quran in such a way, they try to bend or reinterpret the Quran in such a way that it fits their preconceived conclusions.
How many tafseer have been written since the time of the Prophet?
There have been more than 500 including tafseers in different languages.
Various Approaches to Tafseer
The following are the circles drawn on the board:
Note: These were the terms referenced in the circle diagram. The most authentic of which being the first on the list and as you move out in the circles then the Tafseer was weaker and farther away from the Truth.
Inner Circle ... The Correct Understanding
2nd ... Tafseer Bil Ma’thoor (Tafseer based on reports)
3rd ... Preferences given to Personal Opinions on the reports
4th ... Completely different Methodology from the One described in the Quran and Sunnah
Other forms of Tafseer that may span multiple approaches are as follows:
- Fiqhi Tafseers
- Scientific Tafseers
- Literary / Grammatical Tafseers
- Thematic Tafseers
An example of Tafseer by a university professor which is an example of the 4th category of tafseer. In this tafseer he presents his understanding of the mysterious letters that appear at the beginning of certain surahs.
He states that the prophet did not hear the letters properly because he was not ready or prepared for this revelation and this shows his honesty because he passed it on even though he did not hear it properly. So this is an example of insult passed off as a compliment.
We can reject this because the Quran was reviewed by the Angel Jibrael during Ramadhan and if the prophet did not hear them properly, then they would have been reviewed in these sessions.
He further states that the first clue what these letters are, neither in the end or the middle (again we reject this understanding because the surahs were not revealed completely in their entirety but they were revealed piecemeal)
must be... a theory vs report, the report may be rejected in favor of his pet theory
He accepts later that the longer surah did not come all at one time but piecemeal
an argument against this individual.
In Surah Al Qiyaamah, Allah SWT says We will gather for you the Quran and We will also explain it to you. If he missed something how come Allah did not compile it and explain those verses.
This article would be rejected in economics journal but in Islamic studies one can pass off almost anything.
Different groups of bidah have different usool
Besides this though (of following the correct methodology) there are many kinds of tafseer e.g. fiqhi tafseer. Concentrate on deriving the rulings of the Quran. The method can be correct or incorrect. E.g. recently published. scientific tafseers. Two classic cases of sci tafseer one closer to the center and another way off the center of the innermost circles.
Literary or grammatical tafseer. Still influenced by your methodology.
More popular are thematic tafseers. Go through the Quran to find the verses that are of the same theme.
Do we have a tafseer of the Quran from a sahabi?
Tafseer ibn Abbas titled “Tanweer...”(see the handout) it was compiled by Fairuzabadi, unfortunately he relied on one of the weakest chain from ibn Abbas.
many desertations to reconstruct the early tafseer e.g. a collection of tafseer from ibn Abbas know as the sahifah of Ali ibn Abi Talhah. A stuent of the student of ibn Abbas
how would one accomplish that? From the various books of tafseer from these sources to find reposrts attributed
Mujaheed, a famous student of ibn Abbas sat with him. Reconstructed but not the original source
What is the earliest complete published tafseer?
Muqatil ibn Suleyman
The answer for the earliest complete published tafseer is Tafseer Muqatil ibn Sulaiman. He was a taba tabieen.
He was an interesting individual. He learnt from Mujahid, dhahak and ibn sirin. He was from ???. He was considered a liar and hence you have not heard from him. center of those who? He was accused of anthropomorphism of Allah swt. Later scholar e.g. Tabari did not take anything from Muqatil and said that his tafseer was interesting if he was not accused of lying.
This avoidance of Muqatil probably one of the reason why his book survived. Five volumes published, tafseer of most of the Quran.
Because we do not use him as a source or did not quote from him, yet his book survived, how come?
Lots of small booklets existed were not passed on and not kept as independent works, considered as the living isnaad. e.g. ibn Abbas and mujahid quoted in Tabari. The original work is lost, the material is kept though in another format or absorbed into later works.Muqatil’s work survived because it was kept apart and not incorporated into later works.
We don’t have any tafseer from the time of sahaba. The original work of tafseer can be divided into 5 stages.
Hadith were their primary focus and tafseer was secondary and hence not written down by the sahaba. They tried to preserve the hadith as much as possible.
First glimpse of what would be a tafseer was some collection of some of the scholars of hadith. Topics that were discussed were collected together became the genesis of tafseer works.
One of the earliest tafseer that is still in existence is by Abd Razak ibn Hammam al Sanani. in 3 volumes. It is incomplete, not all of the verses are touched upon. Sheikh showed one page of printed text which is the entire tafseer of Surah al Fatiha. And 1/3 of the tafseer text is the isnaad. He has one line for maqdube alayhim and for dwalleen which shows the preciseness or conciseness of the tafseer.
Abd Razak ibn Hammam al Sanani has a book of hadith called the Musannaf which has been passed down to us.
Among the sahabah they were less in need of stuff explained to them. Therefore no need for a tafseer
Tafseer based on reports (Tafseer bil Ma’thur)
This is the next era of tafseer, based on reports and complete tafseer were compiled from the beginning to the end.Ibn Majah has a tafseer that has not been passed down.
Four compilers or sources are the basis of the majority of the works that we have today
1. Tabari died 310
2. Ibn al Mundhir died 318
3. Ibn Abi Hatim died 327
4. Abu Bakr ibn Marduway died 410
The first, second & third compilers were contemporaries of each other. These works are considered major works. Everyone who came later used these works. Bulk of the reports rely on these earlier four works which are considered source books, they give the isnaad back to their sources.
One of the things that come just in the heels of Marduway do not have the isnaad. The later tafseers simply dropped the isnaad and we do not know their sources.
Around the same time, they developed another kind of tafseer. This is know as the tafseer based on ray’ (opinions).
One of the most important contemporary commentators of tafseer is Muhammad Hussein al-Dhahabi.
Tafseer based on opinion (Tafseer bil Ra’y)
What is the difference between tafseer based on reports and opinions?
Tafseer bil Mathur are just reports, the compiler does not add anything, It is the chain and the text. In some of the tafseer bil Mathur in addition to the reports give his opinion, however this opinion is based on the report. So he adds ijtihad which is closely tied to reports.
Tafseer based on opinion are not first based on reports, they are based on opinion. So if you find a report to aid your opinion well and good, but if you dont then it could be problematic.
Another aspect of studying tafseer in the modern era since late 1800’s and 1900’s there has been a lot of developments of tafseer studies. Tafseer bil ma’thur will be the closest to the actual. The diagram from last week is the Ijtihad of the sheikh and not available.
More traditional way of dividing tafseer is the following:
1. Tafseer bil Ma’thur
2. Tafseer bil Ra’y
3. Tafseer bil Ra’y Al-mamdoo3 (or Al-Jaaiz) (Tafseer that is impermissible or disliked, not trustworthy)
However the way the sheikh divides the tafseer is according to the diagram from the previous lecture.
Tafseer bil Ra’y may have opinions that don’t stray very far from the knowledge that is based on reports. Some scholars came later and they have correct proper understanding of Quran and Arabic language. They sometimes included hadeeth. Since their aqeedah was correct, they did not stray away too much. However the later tafseers that were written by some of the sects of bidah had issues with their aqeedah. This is the third category of tafseer and it should be avoided
The difference between 1 and 2 , 2 may be consistent with 1 but may not have the reports. We will be concentrating on tafseer bil Ma’thur for the next few classes in this session.
Even the title of Tafseer bil Ma’thur is disliked by some scholar. Includes tafseer of the Quran by the Quran.
Highlists of Tafseer bil Ma’thur
I. Importance of reports
Person who is compiling tafseer bil mathur is concentrating on statements of the prophet, the sahaba, the tabieen and taba-tabieeen and include the Israeliyaat. Israeliyaat are stories that have their sources with the Jews and the Christians.
II. Reliance of Israeliyat
Tafseer bil Mathur contains reports based on Israeliyaat. Tafseer bil Ra’y are free of Israeliyat. Why do you think the early mufassireen have a tendency to include a number of Israeliyaat?
1. To prove the early connection or evidence of the 3 religions
2. People of Bani Israel have more information about the early religions and the person compiling the tafseer would go to those sources.
3. Among the Arabs at the time, the Jews and Christians were considered the people of the book and people of knowledge and information. They were considered a source for more details about what Allah swt is stating in the Quran.
Louay Fartuli wrote that in the story of Yusuf, the ruler of Egypt is known as Aziz or Malik, he is not referred as Pharaoh which was also a title of the ruler of Egypt. During the time of Yusuf, there was no Pharaoh. However in the bible, the ruler is referred to as a pharaoh as an anachronism.
Now when people are comparing the texts, they are showing the superiority of the Quran since it correctly refers to the rules of Egypt as Aziz or Malik and not as Pharaoh
An important aspect, a weaknesses of Tafseer bil Ma’thur, is they increased the number of Israeliyaat.
III. Reliance on Authentic Reports
Another important aspect is making sure that the narrations are authentic. Tabari and ibn Abi Hatim were experts in the science of hadith. Later tafseer relied on weak reports and fabricated hadiths can be found in their works.
IV. Purpose of the tafseer
Tafseer bil Mathur tied the reports and explained the purpose of the tafseer. Tying what the Quran says and how they apply in our times. Tafseer Al-Sahih, giving reports and claiming them to be authentic
Is Tafseer ibn Kathir Tafseer bil Ma’thur? Majority of scholars will say that it is Tafseer bil Ma’thur. But at the same time he did not loose the fact of how people lived their lives and how to apply the tafseer
Some observations on Tafseer bil Ma’thur (Tafseer based on reports)
Since you are relying upon reports, and if the reports are not reliable then you tafseer might be incorrect. Also mentioned different works of tafseer that fall under this category, some of them are lacking in tying to relevant issues, lives and events at that point in time.
Ibn Katheer’s work is considered one of the standard works of tafseer bil ma’thur. Last time we mentioned that ibn Katheer mentioned al-yaseeq i.e. a law book of the Tartars passed down to them from Genghiz Khan. Their laws were tough and also included from Judaism and Christianity. Even after their embracing Islam they stuck with their Al-Yaseeq and ibn Katheer said that they are practicing kufr and he quoted Surah Al Maidah verse 50 as evidence for it. So this is an example of how he tied it to the relevant issues and tied the Qur’an to what is happening.
Some of the books of tafseer are lacking in this aspect which ties what is being said in the Qur’an with what is happening nowadays.
Discussion of Tafseer Al-Tabari
What is most considered most famous tafseer? Tafseer Al-Tabari.
Biography of Al Tabari
Best example of Tafseer bil Ma’thur. includes the statements of the sahabi, tabieen and taba-tabaieen. He rarely makes comments on the soundness of the hadiths included in his tafseer. His works were written for other scholars and not for the common person. He critiques arabic language but rarely he critiques the isnaad. The quality of his isnaads are good.
Praise of Tabari from ibn Taymiyyah
Ibn Taymiyyah said: Concerning the tafseers that the people have available today, the tafseer of Abu Jafaar Muhammad ibn Jareer Al-Tabari is the most authentic. he mentions the statements of the early salaf and does not contain any bid3ah and does not contain any work form those accused of lying.
Strong reliance on Arabic language
There is more than one book published now that is based on how Tabari uses the Arabic language. He was specialist on Arabic grammar. He studied at the Busran school and the Kufan school and was able to make judgements about them.
He did not just report the text but discussed grammar and find the meaning of an Arabic word and work to determine the strongest meaning of a word. He was also a poet. Arabic poetry is also known Diwan al-Arab
Unique aspect of Tafseer Al Tabari related to the Qiraah of the Qur’an
How many of you are familiar with Qiraah of the Quran?
Qur’an was revealed in seven ahruf and they have been passed down to us. This is part of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. These different Qiraah give different insights into the meaning of the Qur’an, they support one another. These qiraah nowadays, there are 10 acceptable Qiraah that may be read in the prayers. They can be traced back to the prophet.
If someone who rejects one of the standard Qiraah, how would we reckon this person? The Qiraah are based on mutawaatir reports from the prophet. If you reject them, then you are committing kufr according to some ulema.
Tabari did compile a rare work on the Qiraah which did not survive. Many of his contemporaries have complimented it. He analyzes, compares and contrast the various qiraah based on Arabic text, style, and grammar. He rejected some of the Qiraah based on his analysis of Arabic text, style, grammar.. Tabari rejects some of the mutawatir Qiraah. Does this sound strange that he rejects some of the Qiraah? He would say, “I do not allow this Qiraah to be read”.
He is picky about some aspects of the Arabic grammar or style. Later scholars came and refuted his arguments and said that his analysis and conclusion on the matter was very weak. And they say that it is his ijtihaad.
His argument for rejecting it is very weak. Based on his analysis of the Qiraah. It is his ijtihad. We do not accept his ijtihad. They showed examples of Arabic poetry that might not have been available to Tabari and showed that his criticism that some Qiraah are not fusail are incorrect. Important point to consider is that if the scholar made a mistake, we acknowledge the mistake and do not blindly follow his mistakes.
Fiqh issues discussed in Tafseer Al Tabari
Tabari discusses a lot of fiqh issues in his tafseer, he presents what the opposing views are and refutes them. He discusses verses related to ahkam.
He avoided Tafseer Bil Ray in his tafseer; you will not find any place in his tafseer without any evidence.
He is also in his tafseer a strong supporter of the Salafi aqeedah. He refutes the views of the Mutazila and the views of some other bida’h
Baseless accusations against Tabari
At Tabari was accused of being Shia and / or pro Jabariyyah. However, these accusaion were completely baseless.Some of the others went to the other extreme and critized Ali. “Khasais Ali” written by Nasai to oppose the critiques on Ali. Tafseer Al-Tabari contains Israeliyyat which we will discuss later on.
Discussion of the English translation of Tafseer Al Tabari
There is a partial translation of his taseer into English. J.Cooper, the translator, is a muslim. Only one of the volumes has been translated.
It is an abridged translation. All of the isnaads have been dropped. In the passage that was sent out, e.g. pg. 300 contains information about Pharoah and Bani Israel are not based on hadith but Israeliyyat.
He did not quote Tabari but summarized what Tabari says. E.g. When Allah (S.W.T) says how people have sold themselves in exchange for kufr. “How can a soul be sold for disbelief.” Tabari asks. And he goes on to discuss it.
Later on he discusses ghadabin ala ghadabin. Make sure you review the nine pages from Tafseer Al Tabari
Discussion of the source works for Tafseer bil Ma’thur
The four important works of Tafseer bil Mathur are:
1. Tafseer Al Tabari (died 310 Hijri) - it is also one of the most important references for tafseer bil Mathur
2. Ibn Abi Haatim (died 327 Hijri) - His father was Imam Bukhari’s teacher. There is no ijtihaad. It is just reports, just reports. It has chain going back from him to the prophet. This is also one of the most important sources of tafseer bil Mathur. But compared to Tabari its nature is very different
Complete from Al-Fatihah to al-Ankabut. Most of it have been discussed in detail by dissertation from Umm ul-Qurra University. Ankabut to the end is redacted from other works that mention it. E.g. ibn Kathir references it. The contemporary scholar took those quotes and put them together and published as reconstructed. Therefore the verses after Ankabut do not contain any isnaad.
3. Ibn Al Mundhir (died 318 Hijri) - He was one of Bukhari’s students and he was teacher of ibn Habban. His work is no longer available to us.
4. Ibn Mardawaih (died 410 Hijri)
5. Abd ibn Humaid (died 249 Hijri)
All of the above are source works for Tafseer bil Mathur. Later works based on them, driopped all the isnaads for example Suyuti which unfortunately means we do not have the isnaad or we cannot reconstruct the isnaad. But the quality of the reports are excellent and it is not a surprise since Abi Haatim was a scholar of hadith.
Tafseer based on reports from prophet, sahaba, tabieen and taba tabieen are known as Tafseer bil Mathur. It also includes tafseer based on other verses of the Quran. Last time we discussed the five important works/sources of tafseer bil Mathur.
Some Tafseer bil Mathur will contain only reports and will not have any analysis. Tafseer of Abi Ibn Haatim is just reports. However tafseer of Tabari contains his analysis in addition to the reports.
Tafseer ibn Katheer
We are not progressing in chronological order. Now we will move on to tafseer ibn Katheer.
Short biography of ibn Katheer
Many people speak very highly of the Tafseer of Ibn Katheer
Ibn Katheer laid out the methodology for tafseer and he applied it in his work. And this is the reason for the praises for his work. Introduction to the principles of tafseer by ibn Taymiyyah was directly from the works of ibn Katheer. And the reason why it appears in ibn Taymiyyah’s book is because of the political situation of the time and that it would be difficult for ibn Katheer to state his methodology in his work. So this is not plagiarism, even though Taymiyyah did not attribute it to ibn Katheer.
Distinguishing features of Tafseer ibn Katheer
Some of the recent editions of the tafseer contain some editiorial which provide some criticism of his work. Most of the things that they say are negative, sheikh does not agree with all of them, except for a few.
Ibn Katheer did rely on some weak reports. He did rely on some Israeeliyat reports and did not comment on them.
Tafseer ibn Katheer has been published at least 25 times but without any editorial comments. There are couple of them with comments and footnotes. But you will not find a detailed analysis of the reports.
Abu Isaak al Huwaiyani has presented a critic of the hadith.
Maqbul bin Haadi also has an analysis.
We still need a work which goes into the details of each of the report in tafseer ibn Katheer.
Ahmed Shakir and Mohamed Shakir, they went report by report on Tafseer Tabari but did not comment on all of them. So this is the only work that analyzed one of the tafseer bil Mathur.
English translations of Tafseer bin Katheer
We have 10 volume edition is the abridgement of the Tafseer bin Katheer, it is not the complete work of ibn Katheer. See the email sent by Sheikh. There is Juzz Ammah unabridged tafseer published by IIPH. And you can see the abridged tafseer of Juzz Tabarah and you can compare and contrast it. Rufai has published a four volume and somebody in UK is translating it. Surah Baqarah tafseer is very easy to read because of the typesetting (is this from Rufai?). The typesetting of the 10 volume edition is very poor to read.
Tafseer of Suyuti
We are not talking of tafseer al Jalaalain. It is the tafseer known as ....... which is tafseer bil Mathur, that is tafseer based on reports.
Short biography of Jalaaluddin al Suyuti
He lived from 849 -911 Hijra
The last three books we mentioned in the previous class as important source works were available to Suyuti
The tafseer of Suyuti is just reports and our knowledge of those thee works which are no longer available is based on this tafseer of Suyuti. However he drops the chain from the reports. He also takes reports from fabricated sources. So we cannot determine the quality of report based on Suyuti, since he has dropped the isnaads and since the source works are no longer available, we can no longer verify the narrations.
He does not quote tafseer ibn Katheer, since he is relying on the source works which came much earlier than ibn Katheer.
Suyuti includes weak narrations in his reports
Suyuti was bringing together all of the reports, in particular marfoo reports from the prophet. He did not have the chains, he simply stated this was reported by so and so. Not all of the narrations were authentic and that was not his intention to present all of authentic reports. Just because he has it in his book it does not say anything about its authenticity. He had a goal in presenting those narrations, to highlight them so that you are aware of it.
Concept of Asbab al-Nuzul: Reasons behind the revelation
Al-Baqarah verse 14: “And when they meet those who believe, they say, "We believe"; but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say, "Indeed, we are with you; we were only mockers."”
In his tafseer, Al-Suyuti says al Wahidi and thalibi record with a chain from ibn Abbas and gives a story of Abdullah ibn Ubaid and how the hypocrites spoke behind the backs of the Muslims.
Asbab al-nuzul (أسباب النزول), another book by Al-Suyuti, he compiles just the reports on asbab ul-nuzul. He presents the same story with the same sources as above and gives the chain and after that he says this isnaad is completely rejected; he points out two liars and a weak narrator.
Sometimes the author has a certain intentions -- Suyooti’s intention in Al-Dawr Al-Manthoor (الدور المنثور) was to include all the ahadith that have been reported -- authentic or not. He does not even comment on the narrators who are very weak. If you’re not familiar with what the scholars are doing, you might misconstrue that it is acceptable.
Under this category of Tafseer bil mathoor, we have covered the followings tafseers: Tabari (one of the most important ones), ibn Kathir, Abi ibn Hatim (we just touched upon it) and Al-Suyuti.
Next we will discuss four tafseers with a specific goal in mind.
Tafseer of Al-Tha3labi (d. 427 A.H.) (الثعلبي)
His book is tafseer bil mathoor, and it is one of the important books of tafseer bil mathoor. Similar scholar named Al-tha-3alabi (776-825) (الثعالبي).Thalabi is sometimes incorrectly refered to al tha3labi, so beware of this confusion.
Al-Tha3labi’s book is called Kashf al-Bayan (كشف البيان) .
He reviewed all the tafseers and critiqued them. He says some tafseer just have reports without commentaries e.g. ibn Abi Hatim and ibn Manzur. He said it is like you have the medicine without a doctor.
Others go overboard with the chain and takhreej, for example Al-Tabari has such tendency.
He had a lot of teachers back to ibn Abbas. In the introduction he lays out his isnaads in the front and refers to the key sahabi from the isnaad in the body.
In tafseer one has to give preference to the Arabic language. He repudiated the people who start with a premise, like the people of bid’ah. He continuously repudiated the Mutazila in his tafseer. His tafseer is definitely tafseer bil ma’thur.
Criticism of Tafseer of Al Tha3labi
1. A lot of his reports are not authentic
2. He included Israeliyyat, more than is needed in his tafseer.
His tafseer is quite a good size. Ibn Taymiyah sometimes criticized some aspects of his work.
One of the reasons why his tafseer is unpopular (he is not shia) but praised Ali and the family of the Prophet (SAWS) and therefore the shia like his tafseer. His tafseer was published in 12 volumes, edited by Imam Abu Muhammad Ibn Ashoor (no relation to the one from North Africa) who was a shia imaam. So it is kind of strange readings a tafseer the editor of the book filled with shia tafseer. In volume 9 he has a long footnote about why Ali should have been the 1st Caliph.
Analysis of Tha3labi’s tafseer in PhD dissertations
Portions of his tafseer is more reliable based on the PhD dissertations (mostly from Umm Al Qura University) on parts of this book.
The Formation of the Classical Tafsir Tradition: The Quran Commentary of Al-Thalabi (D. 427/1035)
by Walid Salih
Another PhD done in English. He makes some outlandish claims, this is the nature of PhDs in the western universities to show that you are making a contribution. The thesis claims that at the time of the Tha3labi people were loosing interest in the Quran and Tha3labi revived the interest in Quran.
Tha3labi had an important student, al Waahidee (الواحدي), he also has a book on Asbab An Nazool, it is translated in English. Al Waahidee has two tafseers: Al Waseet and Al Baseet. Al Baseet was published last year in 25 volumes, it is also tafseer bil Mathoor. We are more interested in al Waahidee’s student. Al Waahidee’s student was Al Baghawi (البغوي).
Al Baghawi (البغوي)
One of the things that distinguishes al-Baghawi and Al-Whidee and Al-Tha3labi is that al-Baghawi is a scholar of hadith.
He has a very nice collection of hadith called Sharh Al-Sunnah (شرح السنة). Mishkaat Al-Masaabih (a well known book of hadith) is based on Masabih al-Sunnah (one of Al-Baghawi’s books) and then someone else called al-Tabrisi and renamed it.
Praise for Al Baghawi’s tafseer
His tafseer is based on al-Tha3labi’s tafseer and he improved it. ibn Taymiyyah said al-Baghawi tafseer is an abridgement of al-Tha3labi. He has cleared Al Tha3labi’s work of weak reports. Many scholars have praised Al Baghawi’s work. It became the standard work taught in the madrasas of the Eastern part of the world. His tafseer is based on the quran, on the sunnah. He would mention grammatical points, fiqh topics. Some Israeeliyat would still creep in.
There is one tafseer whose basis is the Israeliyyat. We will be discussing this later.
Al-Baghawi’s tafseer is currently being translated into English. Sample that was sent around was from Juz’ Amma (note that by then, many mufassirs have said what they have to say, so not always good to judge).
Example of Al Baghawi’s tafseer translated by Sheikh Jamaal Zarabozo
78. Soorah An-Naba`: The Event
This is a Makkan soorah.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
78:1 What are they questioning one another about?
78:2 About the Great News,
78:3 concerning which they are in disagreement.
78:4 [What they are saying] is certainly not so; they will come to know!
78:5 Indeed, again, on the contrary, they will come to know!
The word ‘amma originally comes from an maa (about what) but the noun has been assimilated and the alif of maa has been dropped, like when one says feema (“in what?) or bima (“with what?”).
“What are they questioning one another about?” That is, what are those polytheists asking one another about? When the Prophet r called them to pure monotheism, informed them of the resurrection after death and recited the Quran to them, they began to ask another, “What is that Muhammad has come with?”
According to al-Zajjaaj, “The wording is that of a question but the meaning is that of exaltation, like when one says, ‘What is Zaid!’ This is done when the matter has become one’s matter has become great and of importance.”
Then Allah mentions what it is that they are questioning each other about: “About the Great News.” Mujaahid and the majority of the scholars that this is in reference to the Quran. There evidence is Allah’s statement, “Say: ‘It [the Quran] is great news.’” According to Qataadah, though, this is in reference to the resurrection.
“Concerning which they are in disagreement,” some of them affirming it and some denying it.
“[What they are saying] is certainly not so,” the word kallaa denies their statement. “They will come to know” the results of their denial when the reality becomes uncovered.
“Indeed, again, on the contrary, they will come to know!” This is a warning to them at the heels of the earlier warning. Al-Dhahhaak said, “‘[What they are saying] is certainly not so; they will come to know!’ is speaking about the disbelievers while, ‘Indeed, again, on the contrary, they will come to know!’ is speaking about the believers.”
Then Allah speaks about His creative activities such that they would then understand His Oneness:
78:6 Have We not made the earth an expanse,
78:7 and the mountains as pegs?
78:8 And We have created you in pairs.
78:9 And We have appointed your sleep for repose,
78:10 and have appointed the night as a cloak.
78:11 And We have appointed the day for livelihood.
78:12 And We have built above you seven strong (heavens),
78:13 and have appointed a dazzling lamp.
78:14 And have sent down via the winds abundant water,
78:15 thereby to produce grain and plant,
78:16 and gardens of thick foliage”
78:17 Lo! The Day of Decision is a fixed time.
78:18 A day when the trumpet is blown, and you come in multitudes.
78:19 And the heaven is opened and becomes as gates,
78:20 and the mountains are set in motion and become as a mirage.
“Have We not made the earth an expanse,” like a bedding. “And the mountains as pegs?” for the earth so that it will not shake. “And We have created you in pairs,” genders, male and female.
“And We have appointed your sleep for repose,” as a rest for your bodies. Al-Zajjaaj said, “‘Repose’ (al-sabaat) refers to a cutting off of movement and the soul in it.” It is also said that its meaning is that your sleep is a discontinuing of your actions as the root of al-sabt means “to discontinue, cut off.” “And have appointed the night as a cloak,” a covering that conceals everything with its darkness. “And We have appointed the day for livelihood.” Ma’aash refers to sustenance. Everything that one lives off of and in is ma’aash. Hence, the verse means, “We have made the daytime a means for your sustenance and dealings needed for your welfare. Ibn Abbaas said, “You seek during it [the daytime] some of the bounty of Allah and what has been determined for you of His provisions.”
“And We have built above you seven strong (heavens).” This is in reference to the seven heavens. “And have appointed a dazzling lamp.” The “lamp” is the sun. “Dazzling” means it is both bright and illuminating. Al-Zajjaaj said that al-wahhaaj means “radiant.” Muqaatil said, “It [the sun] contains both light and heat. Wahhaaj combines both light and heat.”
“And have sent down via the winds abundant water.” Mujaahid, Qataadah, Muqaatil and al-Kalbi said that this is in reference to the winds that squeeze the clouds. This has also been narrated on the authority of al-Aufi from ibn Abbaas. Al-Azhari said, “They are the winds that are the holders of the heavy rains.” According to this interpretation, the words min has the meaning of the particle ba (“by, with”), that is, the rain is sent down via the winds cause the rains to pour forth. Abu al-‘Aaliyah, al-Rabee’ and al-Dhahhaak said, “Al-Musiraat are the clouds.” This is also the narration of al-Waalibi from ibn Abbaas. Al-Farraa` said, “The mu’sirat are the clouds that are filled with rain but have not yet produced rain, like the woman who is called mu’sir as she approaches her menses but is yet to have her menses.” Ibn Kaisaan said, “[The mu’siraat are] the ones that bring relief. One says, ‘In it one finds relief and in it yu’siroon.” Al-Hasan, Saeed ibn Jubair, Zaid ibn Aslam and Muqaatil ibn Hayyaan all said that “from the mu’siraat” means “from the skies.”
The words “abundant water” are understood by Mujaahid to mean “heavy” while Qataadah said that it means, “continual rains, one following the other.” Ibn Zaid said that it means “much rain.”
“Thereby, to produce” that is, with that water [from the clouds], “grains” which humans consume and “plant” which grow on the earth and are consumed by grazing animals.
“And gardens of thick foliage,” heavy intermixed with foliage. The singular of the word alfaaf is laf or leef. It is said that alfaaf is the plural of a plural collective noun. Its singular is laff, its plural is luff and the plural of the plural collective noun is alfaaf.
“Lo! The Day of Decision” during which judgment will be made among the creation “is a fixed time” that Allah has promised for providing reward and punishment.
“A day when the trumpet is blown, and you come in multitudes” in group after group from everywhere for the reckoning.
“And the heaven is opened.” The people of Kufah read this as futihat (is opened) while the others read it with futtihat which implies that the heaven will be ripped apart due to the descending of the angels. “And becomes as gates,” that is, having many gates. It is also said that it will become so unraveled and pierced that it will become open gates and passages.
 [Abu Ishaaq Ibraaheem al-Zajaaj (241-311) was a famous scholar of language and grammar. He was a student of al-Mubarrid, who recommended him to the ruler to tutor the ruler’s children. Among his famous works was a book on the meaning of the Quran entitled Ma’aani al-Quran. See al-Zirkili, al-Alaam, vol. 1, 40.—J.Z.]
 [Mujaahid ibn Jabar was a Follower (taabi), who had learned from Companions such as Aishah, Abu Hurairah, ibn Umar and ibn Abbaas. In particular, he was a devoted student of ibn Abbaas from whom he learned the tafseer of the Quran. Those who narrated from him included Qataadah and al-‘Amash. He died in 103 A.H.—J.Z.]
 [Qataadah ibn Di’aamah al-Sadoosi was born in 60 or 61 A.H. He was a Follower (taabi) and narrated from Anas ibn Maalik. Those who narrated from him include Ayyoob al-Sikhtiyaani, Ma’mar ibn Raashid and al-‘Auzaa’ee. Qataadah was a scholar of hadith and tafseer. He died in 118 A.H.—J.Z.]
 [Al-Dhahhaak ibn Muzaahim narrated from Abu Saeed al-Khudri, ibn Umar and Anas ibn Maalik. It seems that he never met ibn Abbaas. He was specialized in tafseer.—J.Z.]
 [Muqaatil ibn Sulaimaan al-Balkhi narrated from Mujaahid, al-Dahhaak and others, although he was well-known for not being a reliable transmitter. His commentary on the Quran is perhaps the earliest complete tafseer still in existence and has been published in five volumes.—J.Z.]
 [Muhammad ibn al-Saa`ib al-Kalbi was considered an unacceptable transmitter and source of information. It seems that al-Baghawi quotes from him for the sake of “completeness” in reviewing the different views concerning a verse.—J.Z.]
 [Atiyyah al-Aufi was a weak narrator who narrated from ibn Abbaas, ibn Umar and others. His chain, though, is a common chain through which much of the tafseer narrations from ibn Abbaas have been recorded. According to Ahmad, al-Aufi would ask al-Kalbi, the very weak narrator, about tafseer and then hide his source by simply referring to him as Abu Saeed.—J.Z.]
 [Abu Mansoor Muhammad al-Azhari (282-370 A.H.) was a specialist in fiqh and language. Among his important works was the dictionary-like work Tahdheeb al-Lughah, published in 1964 in sixteen volumes.—J.Z.]
 [Abu al-‘Aaliyah Rufai’ ibn Mahraan al-Basri embraced Islam during the time of Abu Bakr. He soon became an expert in the Quran, studying the Quran from the Companions Ubayy ibn Kaab, Zaid ibn Thaabit and ibn Abbaas. Ibn Abbaas used to treat him with the greatest deal of respect due to Abu al-‘Aaliyah’s knowledge of the Quran. He died around the year 90 A.H.—J.Z.]
 [Al-Rabee’ ibn Anas al-Khurasaani was a student of Anas ibn Maalik, Abu al-Aaliyah and al-Hasan al-Basri. Al-‘Amash and Abdullah ibn al-Mubaarak narrated from him. He died in the year 139 A.H.—J.Z.]
 [Ali ibn Abi Talhah passed on a large number of tafseer reports on the authority of ibn Abbaas. Unfortunately, though, he never met ibn Abbaas and actually relied on intermediary sources, most likely Mujaahid and others. Nonetheless, many scholars consider his narrations to be some of the best of what has been narrated from ibn Abbaas in the field of hadith.—J.Z.]
 [Abu Zakariyyaa Yahya al-Farraa` (144-207 A.H.) was a renowned master of Kufan school of the Arabic language. He compiled a very early, important work on the meanings of the Quran entitled Ma’aani al-Quran.—J.Z.]
 [Abdul-Rahman ibn Kaisaan (d. 225 A.H.) was a Mutazili commentator on the Quran.—J.Z.]
 [Al-Hasan al-Basri (21/642-110/728) was from the “major followers,” meeting he had met a large number of companions. He was a great scholar, prolific narrator of hadith, commentator on the Quran, a jurist, preacher and ascetic. Al-Hasan was born two years before the death of Umar ibn al-Khataab. He narrated from Ali, ibn Umar, Anas and many others.—J.Z.]
 [Saeed ibn Jubair was one of the two most prominent Quran students of the Companion ibn Abbaas.—J.Z.]
 [Zaid ibn Aslam al-Adawi (d. 136 A.H.) was a scholar of tafseer from Madinah. He used to give lectures in the Prophet’s mosque. It is said that he compiled a book on tafseer that his son narrated from him.—J.Z.]
 Muqaaatil ibn Hayyaan was a scholar of fiqh and hadith. He was a student of Mujaahid, al-Dhahhaak and others.—J.Z.]
 [Abdul Rahmaan ibn Zaid ibn Aslam was the son of Zaid ibn Aslam. He transmitted his father’s tafseer but his reliability as a narrator is somewhat questionable. He died in 182 A.H.—J.Z.]
Importance of Tafseer bil Mathoor
When you say tafseer bil ma’thoor, the important thing is that where they get their original understanding of the meaning of the verse is from reports. Walid Salih makes the point that all tafseers bil ma’thoor are also bil ra’y. But this is an incorrect definition. People can express an opinion, but you start with the reports until you have a clear understanding of what the verse means, and from that foundation you can then examine the implications of the verses. They use the ahadith as a foundation.
Tafsir bil ra’y doesn’t necessarily start with the reports. But Tafsir Bil Ma’thoor can still express opinions.
Tafseer al Saheeh التفسير الصحيح
A contemporary tafseer called Al Tafseer al Saheeh التفسير الصحيح -- the encyclopedia of sound reports for tafseer bil mathoor.
Done by Hikmat Yaseen (حكمت يسين). Goal of this work is to work out the authenticity of the reports. Then he stops right there. It is a very important source book because he is presenting what is being authentically narrated. Unlikely that this will be translated. But a summarized report with just the authenticity, that might be published.
All three of the tafseers from Al-Tha’labi, Al-Waahidee and Al-Baghawi have been published. But especially the hadith are now going in to detail about the authenticity of the reports.
Khan and Hilali -- The Noble Qur’an in 9 volumes
A tafseer in English -- basically cut and paste from Sahih Bukhari, then they will bring the hadith that are relevant to the particular verse.
Weaknesses of tafseers based on tafseer bil Mathoor
There are certain weaknesses in the tafseers that are based on tafseer bil Mathoor
Al-Dirayah - refers to understanding
Al-Shaukani referred to this as Al-Riwayah wal Dirayah. You need both to perform tafseer.
Fabricated reports in Tafseers
How many non-muslims who want to attack Islam find fabricated reports. It is very important that we understand the existence of fabricated reports in tafaseer.
Virtues of Surah
Tha3labi and Al-Wahidi and Al-Zamakshari have a narration about the virtues of that surah. There is a lengthy hadith that describes the virtues of every surah e.g. he who recites Al-Naba will be given cold water (cool refreshing drink) on the day of judgment. This hadith is not found in any book of hadith.
The problem with this long hadith is that it is entirely fabricated. Supposedly by someone with a good intention. When he found people were not paying due attention to the Qur’an, he made up this hadith. The fact that it is fabricated it is well known. One scholar went from city to city. Then the person was found, and the person confessed. But you see this hadith spread throughout the whole book.
Any time you see a hadith that is too big and too long, you should get suspicious). Except if it is a story (e.g. if ka’b is giving his own story etc) -- the Prophet did not give us a 4 page statement as a hadith. But when it is spread out people might get the wrong impression.
One of the blemishes in al-tha’labi and al-waahidee’s work is that they include problematic hadith. But Al-Baghawi is better in this regard.
There are a lot of fabricated hadith in fiqh, history and tafseer because the people who did the research were not scholars of hadith.
There are some hadiths about the virtues of some surahs which are authentic, so you have to be careful in figuring out which virtues are authentic and which are not.
2010-11-15 Class Notes
We discussed a well-known fabricated hadith that discussed the virtues of reciting a specific verse of the Quran.
What is a fabricated hadith?
Someone made it up. It is a lie. It is not a statement of the Prophet which is a great sin and an act of kufr.
The prophet himself warned, in a sahih hadith he says, “Whoever falsely attributes something to me shall take his seat in the Hell Fire”. Mullah ali Qari has 120 chains for this hadith. See his “The Authority and Importance of the Sunnah”, pg.175 for a discussion of this hadith.
If someone narrates something that he knows is a lie is also a liar???
We have to be very careful about what we attribute to the Prophet (SAWS). But still there are many fabrications.
Where do fabrications come from? What are the motivations for the fabricators?
A new group that needs some justification for its religious beliefs, obviously you can’t add verses to the Qur’an but you could fabricate hadith to justify their beliefs.
A person with a good intention in fabricating -- but this is kind of sad. These people allege that they are lying for the Prophet (SAWS). Example: previous incident with fabricating Hadith for the sake of encouraging Muslims to return to the Qur’an which falsely claimed virtues for reciting verses of the Qur’an.
Even pious people or piety does not prevent people from fabricating hadith, because if they do not understand the principle they may make a mistake.
Not everyone was happy with the spread of Islam, so many of them were still called Muslim, but tried to ruin Islam from within.
Zandaka or Zanadeeq (plural) (زناديق) - people who entered Islam with the intention of destroying it. They were angry or jealous of the spread of Islam. Many of the so-called critics of Islam actually retrieve hadith that frequently come from Zanadeeq and try to revive the fabrications. The right-wing think tanks with anti-Muslim leanings hired people to study the old books with the aim of defaming islam. This group had the most impact on trying to get fabrications into tafseers.
Some examples of people doing it for economic gain (e.g. to mention the credits of a particular food type or something) but tend to have little impact. One exception is books about medical treatment which frequently contain these kind of fabricated hadiths.
Political gains: Abbasid vs Umayyad or sometimes even between Shafi’i and Hanafi. Hadiths like: “There will come a man called Muhammad Ibn Idrees, he will cause more harm than Iblees” (Muhammad b. Idrees is the full name of Shafi’i). These are clearly fabricated.
Patriotism or love of their country such as Sham and then try to fabricate hadith to increase the importance of their nation.
Ibn Qayyim wrote a book on his travel between Egypt and Makkah which describes the use of medicine and herbs. These hadith are mostly authentic. You would be hard pressed to find a fabricated hadith amongst them because Ibn Qayyim was a muhaddith.
A tafseer called Ruh Al-Bayaan which defended the use of fabricated hadith -- returning the idea of the Karramiyyah who thought it was acceptable to lie in the hadith. Sheikh bought this book my mistake and found out about it later.
Examples of fabricated hadith in the various tafseers
Next we will discuss some examples of fabricated hadith.
Surah Insan verse 8 -11 (Makkan surah)
ويطعمون الطعام على حبه مسكينا ويتيما وأسيرا
إنما نطعمكم لوجه الله لا نريد منكم جزاء ولا شكورا
إنا نخاف من ربنا يوما عبوسا قمطريرا
فوقاهم الله شر ذلك اليوم ولقاهم نضرة وسرورا
Muhsin Khan: So Allah saved them from the evil of that Day, and gave them Nadratan (a light of beauty) and joy.
You will find lots of fabrication in asbab al nuzul. It is narated that Hassan and Hussain got sick. Ali made a vow that if they recover, Ali and his family would fast for 3 days. Allah restored and therefore they began to fast. On the first day at maghrib, a poor man shows up and asks for food and they give up all their food and go to bed without any food. 2nd day ….. again they gave all their food to some needy. 3rd day, a prisoner come and they gave all their food.
They went three days without eating and then Prophet (SAWS) said that the above verses were revealed because of the above events.
Scholars agree that this narration is a fabrication. Nausheel??? was a mutazilah
Surah Al Maida verse 55
إنما وليكم الله ورسوله والذين آمنوا الذين يقيمون الصلاة ويؤتون الزكاة وهم راكعون
Verily, your Wali (Protector or Helper) is Allah, His Messenger, and the believers, - those who perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat, and they bow down (submit themselves with obedience to Allah in prayer).“Hum raaki3uun”: It is not a hal construct. It establishes the characteristics of the believers.
There was a poor person who was ignored by the companions and he complained to the Prophet (SAWS). At that time Ali ibn Talib was in ruku and he gave his ring while he was making ruku.
This is also a fabrication. Tabari includes this in his tafseer with isnaad. ibn Katheer mentions the unacceptability of the chain. Also al Baghawi points out the weakness of the chain.
Next example highlights how the fabrication is used in different negative ways.
Surah Hajj verse 52-55 and Surah Al Najm verses 19-23
وما أرسلنا من قبلك من رسول ولا نبيّ إلا إذا تمنى ألقى الشيطان في أمنيته فينسخ الله ما يلقي الشيطان ثم يحكم الله آياته والله عليم حكيم
Never did We send a Messenger or a Prophet before you, but; when he did recite the revelation or narrated or spoke, Shaitan (Satan) threw (some falsehood) in it. But Allah abolishes that which Shaitan (Satan) throws in. Then Allah establishes His Revelations. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise:
Surah Hajj describes how shaytaan obstructs the believers from performing worship. And then the verses continues to describe how shaitan brings fitna and confusion about what the messenger said, put words in the believers ear to confuse them about what the messenger said. The prophet said that when the shaytan tries to do that, Allah swt wipes it away.
In Surah Najm verses 19 - 23, Allah swt talks about the false idols that they used to worship, such as Lat, Uzza and Mannat. And Allah swt says that to call the idols males and the angels females is nothing but their own guess and desire and is not based on any authority.
Story that when reciting Surah Najm, that after reciting these verses, Shaytaan injected into people’s hearings the idea that these are noble beings whose intercession should be sought. This story is the basis of Satanic Verses.
There are many versions of this story. In a variation of the story, Jibreeel comes back and says what did you say?
The stories can be found in a number of books, like Al-Tabari, and also in Al-Suyooti’s al-dawr al-manthoor. Scholars of hadith are very careful in the terminology they use. So they would use terms like “this hadith looks like a fabrication” but really what they mean is that it is a fabrication.
This story is rejected by the vast majority of scholars of hadith. But Ibn Hajr more or less accepts it as Hassan, the reason being that is that later scholars of hadith followed is that it has a large number of isnaads, they will conclude that this report must have a source and hence must be hassan. Ibn Hajr is the sole person who accepts this hadith.
Al-Albaani wrote a booklet on this very verse, and he analyzed each chain and concluded each was false. Also showed that it was not consistent with Ibn Hajr’s own methodology. Just because there are many chains, does not mean that it is correct. E.g. somebody else came and fabricated another isnaad for the story. This is sometimes called “stealing” the hadith. But if you look at the sources, you will find them unacceptable and reasons for rejecting this narration. This stealing is not really happening here, but it sometimes does happen.
All sources go back to one link which is a very weak link. Ibn Hajr was unable to ascertain that all of the isnaads were relying on this one weak link. These other chains were imaginary. The enemies of Islam use the fact that ibn Hajr accepted this hadith. We should respect our scholars, Ibn Hajr is one of the greatest scholars of hadith and we respect him, but he is a human being and he can make mistakes. Especially given that other scholars who are just as great have made different conclusions. May Allah forgive ibn Hajr for his mistakes. We have to be aware of it.
Tafseer al Jalalain is one of the popular tafseers. There are two english translations. We will now discuss the tafseer of Surah Al Ahzab verse 37
وإذ تقول للذي أنعم الله عليه وأنعمت عليه أمسك عليك زوجك واتق الله وتخفي في نفسك ما الله مبديه وتخشى الناس والله أحق أن تخشاه فلما قضى زيد منها وطرا زوجناكها لكي لا يكون على المؤمنين حرج في أزواج أدعيائهم إذا قضوا منهن وطرا وكان أمر الله مفعولا
And (remember) when you said to him (Zaid bin Harithah, the freedslave of the Prophet SAW) on whom Allah has bestowed Grace (by guiding him to Islam) and you (O Muhammad SAW too) have done favour (by manumitting him) "Keep your wife to yourself, and fear Allah." But you did hide in yourself (i.e. what Allah has already made known to you that He will give her to you in marriage) that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people (i.e., Muhammad SAW married the divorced wife of his manumitted slave) whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him. So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them). And Allah's Command must be fulfilled.
One of the stories behind this verse:
Zaid was considered an adopted son of the prophet and there was a practice in Jahiliyah where the adopted son becomes a blood relative. But in Islam it is a foster relationship. Your adopted son is not your son. And Allah swt is trying to show us that Zaid should have only a foster relationship but not a blood relationship.
What is meant by the portion of the verse which says “Keep your wife and fear Allah, and you concealed within yourself”?
When Zaid and Zainab were having marital relationships, Allah swt had already revealed to the prophet that Zainab is going to be his wife. And the Prophet (SAW) kept this information with himself and did not share it with Zaid. Zainab was a cousin of the prophet. In Islamic law, there was a time when there was not hijab and it is possible that the prophet had seen her. Sheikh describes the hadith of Ayesha which said that there was a time before hijaab. She falls asleep and is left behind and is later found by a sahabi. She then says, “He recognised me from before the ayah of the hijaab”.
Story: Later the Prophet accidentally saw when the curtain covering the door opened up and Zainab was visible and he fell in love with her. And then the story continues that the prophet asked Zaid to divorce her for this reason. This is a fabricated story. And then some more fabrications of the asbab ul nuzul of above verse. Basically the fabrications are trying to say that what the prophet hid in his heart was not the revelation from Allah swt that Zainab would be his wife, but some story based on lies.
Tabari says that this is not a true story and he had to comment upon it. You can find this story in the tafseers of Talabi, Zarqashi (Mutazilah) and also in Jalalayn. This is one of the stories that is most often mentioned by the orientalists and others to cast doubt upon the honor of the character of the Prophet. If Muslims are not aware of the fabrications and how the fabrications entered, then they might get confused.
So these two examples are important for Muslims to be aware of. Specifically the fabrication that ibn Hajr said was correct.
Some Tafseer bil Mathur did not fall victim to the fabrications because the compilers of the tafseer were scholars of hadith and they were able to recognize the fabrications.
The methodology that is followed in tafseer bil Mathur can be substantiated by the Quran and the teachings of the prophet. However there is difference between theory and practice. One of the issues of Tafseer bil Mathur were the reliance upon fabricated or weak narrations.
Even when they are quoting from the sahaba, sometimes those narrations are not correct. They have not been examined in detail as the hadith of the prophet. And it may not be easy to find out. There are certain chains from ibn Abbas, Abdullah ibn Ma3sud and Ali ibn Talib are of varying qualities. These are discussed in the class text book and you can find discussions about them.
Abridgements drop the chain anyways and so the English reader is at loss. You will have to go back to the Arabic text.
There is no book of tafseer that is free of fabricated reports. And it depends on the quality of the scholar. You will find fabricated reports in all tafseer and also reliance on Israeeliyaat. Israeliyyat is also included in the reports that people try to get more information about.
What is Israeliyyat?
Israeeliyaat are reports from the ahl-ul-kitab (people of the book, jews and christians).
What kind of reports that the Jews and Christians have?
Some of them have sources in the books of the Jews and Christians e.g. Old Testament, New Testament, Talmud (book of the Jews) and simply legends of the Christians and Jews. Some of the Israeeliyaat cannot be traced back fir this fact. Some of it are legends just like there are legends in the beliefs of some muslims today. Some people use it for anything that is baseless regardless of its sources e.g. the Satanic Verses and the story behind Zaid and Zaynab. It is not a proper usage of the term Israeliyyat. Some of the authors titled their books and differentiated between the Israeliyyat and the fabricated reports.
Why did they seek information from Ahl ul Kitab?
We spoke about Jewish tribes that had moved to Arabia, converted Jews in Yemen. There were jews and Christians among the Arabs. Tendency of the Arabs to look up to them because they had ‘books’ and was carried over in to Islam. So if you are desirous of more information about the previous Prophets and stories of old one would go to these people for it. This desire was also present during the time of the sahabah.
The Prophet spoke about the people of the book and their shortcomings etc. There was a partial translation of the Old Testament in to Arabic during the time of the Prophet. Not everything that they have was the truth. The Quran was also the final judge and protector of the previous scripture. If what they have is affirmed by the Quran it is the truth and otherwise it is not.
What about narrating from the Israeliyyat in our books of Tafseer? Is it permissible?
When sahaba were discussing with the Jews, the prophet said, do no affirm the ahl ul kitab and do not deny what they said, but instead say, we believe in Allah and what was revealed to us.
Example, when Umar was looking at the writing of the Jews, the prophet said if Musa was alive today he had no option but to refer to the Quran.
Ahmad recorded a narration: Without the story of Umar as described above, the prophet said, do not ask the people of the book for anything, they do not know and will not be able to guide you. Truly if Moses were alive today he had no option but to refer to the Quran.
Surat-ul-Kahf: Say my lord is best aware of their number … . and consult no one about them.
Some understand this verse to mean only about the story of Kahf and others think it applies to all conditions.
Verse from the Quran that describes that they have distorted their books.
All ulema have agreed that we do not rely on them for guidance.
We do not go to these reports for ahkam as well.
So do we rely on them for qasas stories or history?
Even what is left over, we have still to be cautious and guarded when we take from them.
What is going to be the major sign that a narration is fabricated?
Anything that disagrees with the Quran and the Sunnah of the prophet is rejected.
According to Imaam Shafiee, we are not allowed to narrate something that is known to be false or fabricated by the Shariah.
The only time you can narrate something that is false is to expose it.
Categories of Israeeliyat
1) Reports that we will not accept; those that contradicts the Quran or the authentic sunnah of the Prophet.
2) Reports that are affirmed from the Quran, those are not problematic (to include in the tafseer)
3) Reports about which the Quran and the Sunnah are silent about. The prophet said do not affirm or deny these. Because if it is affirmed but untrue or denied but true, this would be disastrous. With respect to what we have in the Quran and Sunnah, what kind of information is contained in these Israeliyyat? It is non-essential for our guidance. We don’t need it. If we needed it, it would have been revealed. Now, is it permissible to pass these on?
Affects of Israeeliyat
Tafseer that include the third category is useless information such as names or other details that is not of any relevance. Unfortunately some of the tafseer included the first category of Israeeliyat and unfortunately it gave wrong impression to the reader of the tafseer. It can affect the imaan and aqeedah of the reader and they might believe it no matter what. At the other end, some muslims are going to read these reports and then cause them to doubt the sahaaba and others who used these reports in the tafseer.
The presence of these reports are gooing to harm those who believe in them as well as those who do not believe. Take us away from the main points of the Quran by this irrelevant information. It was a minor issues but the lack of dealing with it has now become an issues.
Where do these Israeeliyat come from and how did they enter our books of tafseer?
Looking at the examples from specific sahaba, it is permissible to narrate them. From amongst the sahabi is Abdullah ibn Amr al As, one of the muslims who was literate, intellectual, liked to read. Battle of Yarmuul? he got a hold of texts of the Jews. None of the sahaba would narrate the Israeeliyat as from the Prophet.
In matters of Aqeedah (not ijtihaad) it would be considered marfoo unless if the sahabah is known to narrate from Israeeliyat. Remember that in matters of what will happen on the day of judgement or the hereafter, this knowledge is only from Allah swt, hence you cannot rely on Israeeliyat as a source for it.
Who quoted from the Israeeliyaat?
One of them is ibn Abbas. The relationship of ibn Abbas and the Israeeliyat has to be investigated. He has clear statements that prohibit the use of Israeeliyat. And yet he uses them.
1. Abd ibn Amr. Israeeliyat in the Tafseer of Tabari has been studied by many including priests and published as thesis.
2. ibn Abbas
5. Saeed ibn Jubair.
1 & 2 are sahabi.
3,4 & 5 are students of ibn Abbas, i.e. his school.
Certain people are mentioned as sources of Israeeliyat and sometimes it is assumption
Abdullah ibn Salam (sahabi) and Kaab al Ahbar (convert to Islam during the time of Umar) both are converts to Islam.
Another person is Wahb ibn Munabbih, convert from Jew from Yemeni. More Israeeliyat from him than the two above. Ibn Abbas would consult him for the stories and considered him trustworthy.
All 3 above are considered trustworthy as narrators of hadith. ibn Juraij, another source of Israeeliyat was willing to take from anyone.
New tafseer based on the Israeeliyat
AlBaqa3i died in 885 Hijri. He was a student of ibn Hajr and also a favorite student of ibn Hajr.
Difficult time in his life. An enemy is a famous student of ibn Hajr, al-Sakhawi. He was very open to his opposition to bidah and spoke out against ibn al-farid and ibn al arabi. Name of his tafseer in 22 volumes is
nadham al-durr fee tanaasib al-ayaat wal-soor
Two unique characteristics of this Tafseer:
1) one of the first people to try to tie together the meaning of the verses and the surah. Most of the tafseer are microscopic and he was the first to look at the meaning of the surah.
2) greatly based on the bible and the books of the Jews as source of tafseer and not as sources of ahkam or aqeedah but the veracity of the Quran. He used only the 4 gospels and the Old testament. He reconstructed the gospels for coherency.
Sakhawi wrote a book condemning the use of the bible and AlBaqa3i responded with defence.
Daryabadi’s tafseer is footnoted based on the Bible.
Mawdoodi also quotes from bible at length, sometimes to critique it.
Is it haraam to relate Israeliyaat?
As long as certain conditions apply, it is okay to relate it. If it contains content that is offensive to our deen, you should not narrate it. Given the overall permissibility, it is not surprising to find that every tafseer has Israeliyaat.
Categorization of Tafseer with respect to Israeliyaat
1. Tafseer that present virtually everything (including isra’eeliyaat) but with a complete isnaad.
This reliefs them from any responsibility or fault. Since they are presenting all of their sources, they absolve themselves from any blame. A classic example of this is Tabari’s tafseer. He also does not critique the Israeliyaat. He would present reports and isnaad and not critique the reports even if the content was objectionable, you will find outlandish content from Israeliyaat in his tafseer. He was a historian and historians like to present the content as they find it.
In his conclusions of his tafseer for the verse, his views might be antithetical to the Israeliyaat reports which shows his thinking, but the casual reader might be confused by the israeliyaat reports. People sometimes say “It is narrated by Tabari, so it must be correct.” This reasoning is incorrect. Until now we don’t have a complete commentary on Tabari that has been fully critiqued.
2. Tafseers that present very few isra’eeliyaat and when they are presented, they have the isnaad and they are critiqued, usually harshly
An example of this is the tafseer of Ibn Katheer. There are occasionally isra’eeliyaat that might creep in though.
3. Tafseers that present virtually everything but no isnaad, but give you the impression that they are all correct
An example of this kind of tafseer is Muqaatil bin Sulaymaan. Some of the sources he is known to have used are known to be liars, but you can not inspect it since there are no isnaads for his narrations.
Another example: Al-Tha’labi. It contains many isra’eeliyaat. One of the commentators bet
4. Tafseers that contain very few of the Isra’eeliyaat but with no isnaad for the Isra’eeliyaat but when they do they have some commentary
Example of this tafseer is by Al-Khaazin.
5. Tafseers that contain many isra’eeliyaat but almost exclusively for the purposes of the rejecting them
Examples of this tafseer is Al-Aloosi, in Roh al-Ma’aani.
6. Tafseer that deliberately avoid Isra’eeliyaat
Example of this tafseer is Mohammad Rasheed Rida. The philosophy here is that we don’t need isra’eeliyaat, and in any case, most of them are baseless. However, it is not strictly speaking tafseer bil ma’thoor.
7. Tafseer based on Isra’eeliyaat
Example: Al-Biqa’ee. Here they present content from the bible or other jewish books such as Talmud. Some of it is based on legends of what existed.
Contemporary tafseer by Daryabadi does the same thing. Some of the moral teachings of the Quran, you will find the same moral teachings in Bible and he quotes it.
Contemporary tafseer by Maududi also does it, he quotes bible for two purposes, either to reject them or to present the same moral teaching. It belongs to categories 5,6 and 7.
Surah al Kahf does not give details, Al Biqaee gives the names of the youth of the cave, name of the dog, color of the dog etc. Most of it is not needed. And this is from the Israeliyaat
Syed Qutb does not use Israeeliyaat. He is based on category 6. In a couple of places he might have quoted them.
Extravagant Examples of Israeliyaat
Surah Saad verse 21-26 gives us the story of Daud while he is in his prayer chamber. And they ask him to judge between the two. One of the brothers has 99 ewes and the other has only one ewe. And the one with 99 ewes is asking for his ewe. Daud says that you are being unjust.
So Daud realized that he was being tested, and then he realized that he had been hasty. So he made prostration and he asked for forgiveness. What is the story here?
First we will present true story based on correct narrations from Israeeliayt and then an extravagant story based on false stories from Israeliyaat.
The true story: It is related to an incident in the life of Daud, but it has been corrupted and things have been added. (Side note: Were David and Solomon kings or prophets? According to the Bible, only kings. In Islam, they are both. There is also the fact that in the Bible, there is frequent portrayal of the Prophets as being amoral).
There was an individual married to a particular woman, and David approached the man and/or thought about approaching that man so that he could divorce her so he could marry her. This practice of asking a man to divorce his wife so that you could marry her was quite common in the Israeeliyat of the time.
So the above incident is a message to Dawud that he should not ask to marry that man’s wife when he already had many wives. So Allah forgave him. So while it was not illegal or even immoral, it was not becoming of a Prophet to ask to marry a wife when he was already married. This is supported by other. This story is similar to the story of the blind man ignored by prophet.
The incorrect story: Narrated from Ibn Abbas. Another israeeliyaat mention that he would devote one day to worship and another to being king. So on one of his days of worship, he was distracted by a bird. He then tried to chase it, but he accidentally saw a woman who was bathing. In some versions, he committed zina and then she becomes pregnant, and he asks his commander to put him on the battlefront and then that man is killed, and then Daud marries this woman. So these are all embellishments.
It is in tafseer of ibn Abbas. And it is narrated as hadith of the prophet. Tabari mentions this story and does not comment upon it. Others mention this story and mention that it is false. This can be very harmful. Ibn Katheer does not even bother to mention this story and says that there are many false Israeliyaat and he does not repeat the story. The moral of the story is also lost because how did they reach these fabrications or embellishments is simply astonishing.
This happens a lot in Surah Saad. The typical areas covered by Isra’eeliyaat are in the beginning of creation, the lives of the Prophets, and the attributes of Allah, and to some extent the hereafter (but note that the Bible doesn’t touch so much on the hereafter).
Verse from Surah Saad about Sulaiman about loosing his ring
This story is in Tabari
Sulaiman married many wives and some of his wives were mushrikeen and they committed idolatory in Sulaiman’s house. And in the above verse, Sulaiman lost his ring, and this was the source of his power. He was searching for the ring for 40 days. Shaytaan found the ring and comes and sits in his seat and rules for 40 days, pretending to be Sulayman. The Torah describes what happened in the 40 days, for example the women are accosted by the shaytaan. So the people bring Torah and bring it in front of him, and the shaytaan and then he loses his ring in the sea. The ring is swallowed by a fish and then Sulaymaan happens to be fishing and catches a fish. It so happens that it had the ring in it, so it is returned back to the Sulaiman.
Surah Hud verse 48 about Nuh and the ark.
There is a famous story, where disciples of Isa ask him to return back somebody from the time of Nuh and the ark. Isa is walking and he picks up some clay and says that this clay is the heel of the son of Nuh, which was Ham, and then he came back to life. Isa asked him is this the state you were in when you died. He says no, but he thought it was the Hour and that is the reason why I came back looking like this. And then he was asked about the details of Nuh’s ark.
You will find this story in tafseer Ibn Katheer.
These examples are presented to show us how the stories end up in the books of tafseer.
Now referring to the tafseer of Qurtubi, which shows that some information being presented from Israeliyaat without any sources.
The handout is highlighting the story of how Adam and Hawa were expelled from Jannah. And in the tafseer of Qurtubi, there is a story of snake which is all from Israeliyaat. THere is no authentic hadith of the prophet. And then the tafseer goes on to say that it is okay to kill snakes in ihraam. There is no basis for it. They present the information without any hadith.
The tafseer also states where Adam and Hawa and Iblis and the snake landed up on the earth. There is no basis for this information. It is is presented as facts, established facts, and then it creeps into the tafseer.
Overall Qurtubi has a good tafseer. We just have to be aware of it.
Another example from the handout of the class is from the tafseer of Tabara which we did not have time to discuss.