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Principles of Quranic Tafseer Winter 2011

Principles of Tafseer: Approaches to Tafseer (Winter 2011)


Required Textbook: Jamaal Zarabozo, Methodologies of the Quranic Commentators (See the pdf attachment sent by Sheikh Jamaal)
Grading: Final Exam 100% (One final, Feb 28, one week before last week of class)
General Information About the Class
When: Due to prolonged illness of Shaykh Jamaal Zarabozo this quarter was suspended in February and then resumed in late March. So this quarter started in January and the last class was on May 2. Due to this reason, we did not have a Spring session in 2011.

Basic Outline of the Class
Introduction: Types of Tafseers
Ijtihaad and Tafseer (Text, pp. 146-155)
The Use of “Opinion” in Tafseer (Text, pp. 180-183)
“Praiseworthy Opinion” Versus “Blameworthy Opinion”
Examples of Tafseers of “Praiseworthy Opinion” (Text, pp. 183-186)
Al-Raazi, al-Baidhaawi, al-Maatureedi, al-Jalaalain
Examples of Tafseers of “Blameworthy Opinion” (Text, pp. 186-188) (time permitting)

2011-01-03 Class Notes


The basic idea behind the class is to comprehend the different ways scholars approached the Tafseer and and what are positives and negative aspects of the different approaches to Tafseer. And how different ulemas approached and their different methodologies while approaching the Tafseer.

Categories of tafseer
1. Tafseer bil Ma’thoor (تفسير بالمأثورأ) - tafseer based on reports
This can be further classified into two subcategories - pure and mixed.
2. Tafseer bil Ra’y al maqbool (تفسير بالرأي المقبول) - tafseer based on acceptable opinions
3. Tafseer bil Ra’y al madhmoom (تفسير بالرأي المذموم) - based on blameworthy or unacceptable opinions
4. Other Tafseers - The above three don’t capture, so we have added another “Other category”

Approaches to tafseer bil ma’thoor

Interpreting the Quran in the light of other verses of the Quran, the Hadith, the Sahabah and Tabieen. Firmly rooted in the light of other verses of the Quran.
The sahabah have a special role, the tabieen less so but were students of the sahabah.

Tafseer bil Ma’thur can be broken into two types.
1) Pure - just hadith and the statements of the sahabah and the tabieen e.g. ibn abi Hateem, ibn al-Mundhir, one of al-Suyuti’s books. Purely tafseer bil ma’thur and does not go beyond the reports.
2) Mixed: They are mixed they are strongly rooted in the light of Quran, hadith, statement of Sahabah and tabieen also they add their opinion from themselves to the reports e.g they will weight between the difference views.
The most famous of the tafseer bil ma’thur is from this type e.g. tafseer al-Tabari, ibn Katheer adds a lot of their opinions in addition to the reports. This type is more common. When you are writing the tafseer you are writing about the Quran. We need to go beyond the hadith and the statements of the sahaaba for people to understand the Quran so that people can understand and apply it.

Tafseer bil ma3thoor they will start by telling you that there is hadith and statement of Sahabah and then later on they give their opinion and further elaborate it.

Tafseer based on acceptable opinion
Tafseer: 1- tafsir bil mathoor( a: pure b: mixed with opinion) 2- tafseer based on accepable opinion are the tafseer of the Ashariis and the Maturidis. Some specific aspects of aqeedah unique to them not found among the sahabah and the tabieen. These groups make up ahl-al-sunnah.

Tafseer based on unacceptable opinions
The tafseer of the mutazilah and the shi’ah are grouped here. This is based on opinion of the person categorizing the tafseer.
no question that when you are writing a tafseer and not rooting to the statements you are bound to deviate. If you write a Tafseer is not based on the what is been found in report then you will end up in things which contradicts the statement from Sahabah and the tabieen

Other tafseers
Juristic tafseers based on deriving the laws of the Quran. These are usually based on madhaab.
Tafseer al Ishaari (تفسير الإشاري) is basically emphasizing what they indicate sometimes stronger and sometimes lesser e.g. the sufis. For example When Allah orders us to pray and it emphasis on results of pray and go away from the literal meaning of Quran and get into deeper. Something like that will be relatively good also sometime would go very far away from the what the text is meant for.


The book for this course is meant for an undergraduate course for the American Open University and written by Sheikh Jamaal Zarabozo himself. See the email sent by Sheikh Jamaal.

The above categorization was based on the traditional approach, now we will move on to the next topic.

What is the ultimate goal of tafseer?
To identify what is Allah's intention in each verse and to put in such a way that we can understand it now and ho we can apply. To bring the Quran to the people so that they can understand what is the meaning and what is the guidance .

Keys to correctly performing tafseer

1. Correct Methodology - Quran and Sunnah point to some methodology. Some verses of the Quran are open to interpretation and some are mutashabihaat. There are places where Allah says the quran is in Arabic language.

2. Sound database - One of the problems of tafseer bil ma’thoor is that they are based on hadith that are fabricated or based on israeliyaat. For example you have fabricated hadeeth and you treating it as hadeeth and then you are going to give more priority for it than other reports which are authentic. Whereas in reality that it not correct as you are basing things on the report which is not correct. Thus you have to be careful to understand what is authentically narrated from them.  

3. Sincere goals - The person performing the tafseer has to have sincere goals. If the mufassir is starting with an opinion and he emphasises the verses that support his opinion and discount other verses that are not in agreement with his opinion. This approach will harm you when you perform tafseer.

4. Tawfeeq from Allah - We need guidance from Allah swt to gain the proper understanding. Why don’t we just rely on tawfeeq and ignore the others keys? What is the problem with this understanding. Allah in many place let us know that we have to take Asbaab i.e we have to follow the causes.

For example Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said “knowledge is thought learning”. Even knowledge like knowing Allah is through learning although we need grace and blessing from Allah but this is not case that Allah will give us without we taking any steps. But when we take the correct steps Allah will guide us to correct conclusion.

Tafseer bil Ra’y

Opinion here means Ijtihaad scholars are making to come to some conclusion this is what is meant by Raa3i.

When can you make ijtihaad?(wrt Tafseer bil Ra’y).
Even before you can make ijtihaad, you have to be aware what are its pre-conditions for ijtihaad. If you have a verse or hadith which is authentic and its meaning is definitive and clear, then you have no room for ijtihaad. If you have something clear from Quran and Sunnah, then you cannot perform ijtihaad. For example, do we have to pray? There is no room for ijtihaad, the evidence is very clear.

Is there ijtihaad involved when you use one verse of the Quran to understand another verse?
It is possible that the above action itself involves ijtihaad. Because you are choosing a verse to shed some light on another verse.

Adwa al Bayaan fi idhahil qurani bil quran (أضواء البيان في إيضاح القران بالقران)  (Shinqeeti’s tafseer) is based on finding other verses and this is based on his opinion. The act of choosing a verse requires him to use his understanding of the verses. How relevant the verses are, could be based on your opinion. Even tafseer bil Mathoor can be a matter of opinion. For example You have a verse A and while going through Quran you find some verse which gives you the meaning of verse B and now you make ijtihaad to use Verse B as explanation to Verse A. Sometimes this can be based on ijtihaad and someother times it is clear from the Quran like explantion of At-tariq where Allah explains in the following verse on what is At-tariq. This also applies while using hadeeth to expalin the verse of Quran where there can be cases it is matter of Ijtihiaad and there are cases which is definitive.

Judging a verse is also based on opinion. So there is ra’y involved even in tafseer bil Mathoor.

Every interpretation of verse will stand on its own merits, irrespective of what type of tafseer it belongs to. So you cannot rank tafseer bil Mathoor higher than tafseer bil Ra’y.

Next time we will discuss the debate over tafseer bil ra’y.

2011-01-10 Class Notes


There are very few tafseer based just on reports, which are known as tafseer bil Mathur. Most of the tafseer have their opinion.

Tafseer that is not based only on reports but you allow yourself to determine the meaning of the verse based on your own efforts or ijtihad. This is known as tafseer bil Ra’y. The term itself has some negative connotation.

Today we will discuss the debate among scholars, is it permissible to make tafseer based on ijtihad?
Some say, it is impermissible to make tafseer based on opinion. Does this sound strange to you? How many of you agree upon this view?

First we will discuss evidences for not allowing tafseer based on ijtihad and the classroom has to refute the evidence.

Evidences that tafseer based on ijtihaad is not allowed
When you are interpreting the verse, you are speaking on behalf of Allah swt. And if the statement you make is not based on knowledge, then it is a very dangerous situation.

Verses of the Quran as evidences
1. Surah Asraf verse 36 says, Allah swt warns us about not speaking of which you have no knowledge. Do not venture into that which you have no knowledge. Your hearing.... speaking will be held responsible.
2. Surah Nahl verse 116 says, do not say false thing and say this is halaal and this is haraam, do not ascribe false things to Allah
3. Surah Araf verse 113 indicates things that are forbidden to us and Allah swt moves from less heinous to more henious crimes. Allah swt says ….  Shirk is mentioned before speaking on behalf of Allah swt.

Hadith evidences
1. If anyone speaks about the Quran without knowledge he shall take his seat in the hellfire - Weak Hadeeth
2. If someone speaks about the Quran based on his opinion, even if he is correct, he shall take his seat in the Hellfire. - Week hadeeth , some said this is hassan

Statement of the sahaba as evidences
1. When Abu Bakr was asked about verse in the Quran, he said, what sky would give me shade and what earth would hold me, if I were to speak about the book of Allah.
2. Umar Khattab also threatened people about using ra’y or opinion in religious matter.
3. ibn Abbas said all there is to say is to obey and follow the book of Allah and the sunnah ?????did anybody capture this????...

Statement of the tabieen as evidence
1. Sayeed ibn Musaib said that we do not say anything based on our opinion when it comes to the Quran.

Rational argument as evidence
1. ibn Taymiyyah gave a rational argument: anyone strays from the opinions of the sahabah and the tabieen and gives an interpretation of the Quran then this person is mistaken and an innovator. If he was a mujtahid he will be rewarded. the sahaba and the tabieen are the most knowledgeable of the Quran and if anyone interprets the Quran against them they must be wrong.

Evidences against using ijtihaad when making tafseer.
We have enumerated above the three verses in Quran which speak about Allah without knowledge and we have couple of hadeeth regarding speaking of Allah without knowledge and we have statement of Sahaba and tabieen and we have rational argument presented by Ibn Taymiyaah. These are the evidences that are used by those who say it is not allowed to make ijtihaad when it comes to tafsir.

What would be some arguments supporting the notion of tafseer based on ijtihaad and present evidence that it is allowed to make ijtihaad when discussing the Quran.

Evidences that it is permissible to make ijtihaad when performing tafseer
1. We discussed last time that even in choosing a verse to explain another verse of the Quran, there is some ijtihaad involved.

2. Quran is for all of mankind until day of judgement. Mankind will face circumstances for their unique conditions that might not be exactly similar to the situations faced by the prophet and the sahaba and this forces us to derive guidance from the Quran. And this derivation is nothing but ijtihaad.

3. If the sahaba differed on the matter, there might be some leeway for interpretation. You still have to restrict the view according to ibn Taymiyyah.

4. What can we understand when fuqaha or scholars differed with each other, then this is a sign that they made ijtihaad in tafseer.

5. Even Abu Bakr when he was interpreting a verse of the quran about a controversial matter, he said if he is right then it is from Allah swt, and if he is wrong it is from shaytan. So the same noble person who made earlier statement is indicating that he made ijtihaad.

6. When you read the Quran, one of the most important goals of the Quran is tadabbur or pondering over the Quran. Allah swt says, this is a blessed book that we have revealed to you in order that you may ponder over it and people of knowledge may reflect. In another verse, Allah swt says don’t they ponder over the quran or is there a seal over their heart.

What is the meaning of tadabbur?
Dubur means back of something, tadabbur implies the meaning of something, what it is that should come to you when you read something. When you ponder over the Quran, you are going beyond over what is said, you are extending your knowledge. You are trying to see how this Quran can be applied to your life

7. In Surah 3 verse 7 there are verses that are muhkamat (unequivocal); they are the foundation of the Book. There are other verses that are not muhkamat are known as mutashabih???. This does not mean allegorical which implies figuratively speaking, this is in response to suggestion from a student.

8. The prophet also made dua for ibn Abbas, “O Allah give him the understanding of the Deen and teach him Ta’weel.” This is talking about the inner meaning of the verses. This dua is a sign pointing to the reality of making ijtihad.

9. On one occasion, a sahaba was sexually defiled and it was very cold before fajr and instead of making ghusl, he used dirt instead. The prophet asked him why did he do that, and the sahaba replied with a verse of the quran to not kill yourself and he said that if he had taken a cold shower, it would have killed him.

10. We see that the prophet did not explain all the verse of the Quran and explain the shades of the meaning of it. Neither did the sahabah. If later scholars did not explain them all those aspects of the Quran will be lost.


Summary of the refutation
We have rational arguments, we have statements of the sahaba, even Abu Bakr. So can we make ijtihaad or not?

The hadith quoted earlier for not making ijtihaad are weak and therefore cannot be used in shareah rulings.
The objections (verses) are speaking about:
What are they speaking about? Are they speaking about ijtihaad or speaking without knowledge?

In reality, the evidences for not making ijtihaad do not prove that we cannot make ijtihaad. They prove that if you make ijtihaad, it has to be based on sound knowledge.

If you look on both sides, there are few important conclusions:
1. Ijtihaad is definitely necessary to make tafseer. It is needed to apply for all circumstances faced by Muslims.
2. You need proper tools and knowledge to make tafseer.

There will be some tafseer based on ijtihaad that will be out rightly rejected. For example, If it goes against Quran and sunnah will be rejected.

Some very important questions are raised from the above discussion:
Who is qualified to make ijtihaad when it comes to tafseer?
What are the branches of knowledge one must possess before attempting to make tafseer based on ijtihaad?

We are speaking on behalf of Allah swt and we have to be extremely careful. This should be based on sound knowledge, the door to ijtihaad is not open to everyone. You cannot do something based on your heart. You have to be qualified to make tafseer

Pre-requisites to perform tafseer
1. Arabic Language, why is it important?
Because the Quran is revealed in Arabic language, it is lofty speech. The interpretation has to be based on the rules of the Arabic language, not on some other language.
Is it sufficient to have a great knowledge of the Arabic Language?

2. Mujtahid must be Muslim first and foremost. What about this? Does the mufassir have to be a Muslim?
The sahabah were closely intertwined with what the Quran was speaking about.
It is dificult to image that a non-muslim will have a pure intention to interpret the Quran according to what Allah really means.

Suppose a non-muslim does make a tafseer would you accept their tafseer?
They may be biased. Some of our students are believing the opinion of the orientalists.
We cannot put complete trust in this individual. This knowledge is your deen, so be careful from whome you take your deen - statement of ibn Sirin. It does not make any sense to take deen from this individual. A non-muslim could master all of the fields but we will not take because he is lacking imaan.

Even if someone is a Muslim who performs tafseer and he confides in you that the only reason he made tafseer is not for the pleasure of Allah swt or for seeking the truth, then you have to reject his tafseer.

Non-muslims have memorized many parts of the Quran, but we will not take any tafseer from them.

Next time, we will discuss the qualifications and qualities that must be met before we accept an individual’s tafseer.

2011-01-24 Class Notes


We have established that ijtihaad is permissible when reading the Quran. It is not haraam. We will discuss the question of when is someone capable or permissibility of making tafseer. Everyone can understand the clear passages of the Quran, but when you go beyond the clear meaning and try to extrapolate laws or go beyond the meaning or say that the Quran is really means such and such instead of its literal reading. This practice is done by many, but we have to be careful that we dont allow it to spread ideas that are not proper.

Do they have the right tools and means to interpret the Quran? Everybody should have access to the Quran but that does not give you the right to interpret it any way you want to.

Before someone feels that they are qualified to make tafseer, what are the qualities and qualifications should an individual possess before making tafseer? If you reflect on this question and think about it, then it will have an impact upon you when you make tafseer of the Quran.

Classroom discussion of the above question
1. Good intention / Sincerity
2. Muslim
3. Follow Quran and Sunnah
4. Can read Arabic
5. Knowledge of hadith/reports
6. Should be familiar with asbaab an nazool (occasions surrounding the revelation of the verses)
7. Discern authenticity of the reports
8. High degree of intelligence
9. Piety (taqwa)
10. Compassion - how would you reconcile this quality when discussing verses about punishment or jihad
11. Courtesy / Modesty
12. Discipline: abrogation (nask) Sahaba used this term for both complete and partial cancellation, what do we mean by this? You have to be familiar with the concept of takhsees, wherein the rule that was generalized is now specialized to few cases
13. Recognize your preconceived notions
14. Discipline: Ahl Al-Kitaab (Your source of information may not be very reliable)
15. Discipline: Pre-Islamic Arabia (Verses deal with these concepts and you have to be familiar with them in order to understand the verses. For example, Ibn Hazm is from Andalus and he had never made Hajj and he did not have familiarity with it and he misinterpreted the number of times to go between Safah and Marwah)
16. Discipline: Arabic
17. Follow proper methodology and rules of tafseer

There is one discipline that is missing in our classroom discussion, which we should have come up with, which is to have correct Islamic beliefs. In addition to have a good ground in aqeedah (matters of belief). The bulk of Quran deals with aqeedah, you find terms and concepts dealing with aqeedah.

If you don’t have correct understanding of aqeedah, it could lead to many mistakes. For example, if your conception of Imaan is incorrect and it will be reflected in every tafseer of the verse. We will see an example from the translation of Tafseer al Jalalayn and see the mistake repeated often.

Another point is that you should be free of bidah (innovations in the matter of deen).

The following points are mentioned by scholars
1. Proper aqeedah
2. Free of bidah
3. Discipline: Usool al Fiqh (Islamic legal theory) This topic deals with how to derive laws from the text. Sometimes you have to infer things and understand what is being inferred or alluded to, you have to be aware of it. You have to be aware of particularization
4. Discipline: Uloom al Quran (different sciences of the Quran) What is revelead in Makkah or Madinah, being aware of the proper chronology of the revelation of the verses.
5. Discipline: Qiraat of the Quran (different reading of the Quran)
6. Part of modesty is to not delve into matters that Allah swt has not allowed us to delve into. For example details about some aspects of Allah swt. For example, how many angels can fit on the head of a pin?
7. Usually Muslim is not mentioned in the science of tafseer but it is understood

صلى الله عليه وسلم

2011-01-31 Class Notes


We discussed the qualities a person should possess before venturing to perform tafseer of the Quran. The classroom discussion captured many points but we missed a few important points that we might have taken for granted, such as Proper Methodology and Usool al Fiqh.

Mistakes an individual can fall into while making tafseer
What could happen if some of the qualities that we discussed last time are not upheld.

Surah Maida verse 93, Allah swt says

ليس على الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات جناح فيما طعموا إذا ما اتقوا وآمنوا وعملوا الصالحات ثم اتقوا وآمنوا ثم اتقوا وأحسنوا والله يحب المحسنين


Muhsin Khan

Those who believe and do righteous good deeds, there is no sin on them for what they ate (in the past), if they fear Allah (by keeping away from His forbidden things), and believe and do righteous good deeds, and again fear Allah and believe, and once again fear Allah and do good deeds with Ihsan (perfection). And Allah loves the good-doers


What do you make of this verse, specifically there is no sin on them for what they have eaten?
Could this give an impression for people with Christian background, that what you eat and drink has no restrictions whatsoever. Could you arrive at this opinion? Would you be able to say, that it is okay to consume alcohol?

There was a Sahabi, Uthman ibn Madun (عثمان ابن مدعون)  who was caught by other sahabas drinking alcohol, they asked him what you are doing, and he quoted this verse in his defense.

What was the mistake of this sahaba?
Ibn Umar or Abbas?? was asked why is this ummah going to be split into different groups, he said that there will be people after us who will read and interpret the Quran based on their opinion.

We have to know the asbaab an nazool, the cause of revelation of this verse. This verse was revealed after the prohibition of alcohol and some sahaba went and asked the prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم what would happen to people who used to drink alcohol before the prohibition.

If you don’t know the asbaab an nazool, it is possible to misinterpret the verse.


Surah Yunus verse 26, Allah swt says,

للذين أحسنوا الحسنى وزيادة ولا يرهق وجوههم قتر ولا ذلة أولئك أصحاب الجنة هم فيها خالدون



Muhsin Khan

For those who have done good is the best (reward, i.e. Paradise) and even more (i.e. having the honour of glancing at the Countenance of Allah) Neither darkness nor dust nor any humiliating disgrace shall cover their faces. They are the dwellers of Paradise, they will abide therein forever.


What do you understand of the phrase, for those who have done good is the best and even more?

How can we say that ziyada وزيادة means looking at the face of Allah swt? How can we make such a claim? What would be additional source of information for this understanding?
The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) explained this verse, about people who enter Jannah and they will be informed about an additional reward, that Allah (SWT) will uncover the covering and they will be able to see him.

They are already in jannah and the ziyada will be the reward as explained by our Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم

If we don’t follow the proper methodology such as downplaying or ignoring the Sunnah of the Prophet صلى الله   عليه وسلم then could we have come to a different conclusion?

First they will not come to the same conclusion and it will be a wrong conclusion. One of the few complete tafseers in English.... out of total of few

The  following are some of the complete tafseers in English Mawdudi, Syed Qutb, Yusuf Ali, Tafseer Usmani, Mohamed Asad.

Mohamed Asad (text here) was influenced by Mutazillah and in his commentary he does not turn to the sunnah of the prophet. He concludes that ziyada means more than what their actual merits

[Ed: another point that was mentioned last time was Arabic Language]

The Quran is in the Arabic language of the time of the Prophet. صلى الله عليه وسلم
Is that important? Every language evolves. The Quran was revealed 1400 years ago. Arabic language is the only language of revelation that is in existence.

Hebrew of the time of the revelation is a dead language. Armaic is also extinct, it is not a living language. However Arabic is a living language. Because of the Quran, the evolution of Arabic language is not as pronounced as some other languages.

For example,  the word kalima (كلمة) or harf (حرف), during the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), Kalima meant a complete sentence, harf meant a word.

That is why we have the statements that if you utter the kalima then you will enter jannah. This is a minor point, the next example is more emphatic.

What is the meaning of the word al buruj (البروج) ?
If you are familiar with astronomy, constellations remain in constant shape with respect to one another. Buruj are sets of stars such as constellations, such as the big dipper which points to the north pole.

Another meaning in modern Arabic is the zodiac signs as translated by Yusuf Ali and the concept is related to astrology. They are used by people to predict to the future.

Constellations are used to guide yourself in the desert. The Arabs obviously had no idea about the zodiacal signs. Clearly therefore, translating burooj as zodiacal signs shows you are not taking into account the language at the time of the Prophet ( صلى الله عليه وسلم ).


In Surah Al-Insaan v 3, Allah says

إنا هديناه السبيل إما شاكرا وإما كفورا



Sahih International

Indeed, We guided him to the way, be he grateful or be he ungrateful.


Muhsin Khan

Verily, We showed him the way, whether he be grateful or ungrateful.


Pickthall

Lo! We have shown him the way, whether he be grateful or disbelieving.


Yusuf Ali

We showed him the Way: whether he be grateful or ungrateful (rests on his will).



One of the key aspects of using the Arabic is to get a deeper understanding of the Qur’an. Note that it is translated as grateful and ungrateful. But is this correct translation?

Allah says إما شاكرا وإما كفورا “shaakiran wa imma kafooran” but one would expect kaafirun. So the English translation fails to convey the difference. The translations make it sound the same in emphasis, but there is an obvious and striking difference in the Arabic when it is read.

In Arabic there is a diffference: the verb of the form fa-ool (فعول ) gives additional emphasis. It implies continuing to do something.

If a human being is grateful towards Allah, the greatest amount of gratefulness is going to be meagre compared to the gifts of Allah. No matter how thankful you are, you are no longer deserving of being truly thankful.

The one who believes is grateful but he is not worthy of being called extremely grateful. On the other hand, the one who do not believe, they are deserving of being called extremely ungrateful.

This is there in the Arabic language, but if you read the English translations, you are not going to see that captured in the translations.

A more in-depth knowledge of the Arabic language not only prevents mistakes in interpretation, it also gives you a more in-depth knowledge of the Qur’an. If you are lacking in knowledge of the Arabic language, then it becomes easy to be deceived.

Example: S Ma’idah v 33.

إنما جزاء الذين يحاربون الله ورسوله ويسعون في الأرض فسادا أن يقتلوا أو يصلبوا أو تقطع أيديهم وأرجلهم من خلاف أو ينفوا من الأرض ذلك لهم خزي في الدنيا ولهم في الآخرة عذاب عظيم


Sahih International

Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment,

Muhsin Khan

The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.

Pickthall

The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;

Yusuf Ali

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;

Shakir

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement,

Dr. Ghali

Surely the only recompense of (the ones) who war against Allah and His Messenger and (diligently) endeavor to do corruption in the earth, is that they should be (all) massacred or crucified, or that their hands and legs should be cut asunder alternately or that they should be exiled from the land. That is a disgrace for them in the present (life), (Literally: the lowly "life", i.e., the life of this world) and in the Hereafter they will have a tremendous torment.



This verse is dealing with the punishment of hiraaba....

Shaykh read the Pickthall translation and said that the translation can be correct or wrong.

Pickthall: The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;


And then he read the following commentary which is 12 pages long..

Commentary of the above verse:
“In short the idea that those that try to interpret the verse above as a source of law are to be dismissed. No matter how many famous names attached to them. …”

The commentary is basically saying: This verse is not saying that those who commit hiraaba should be killed or crucified or banishing them, etc. Anyone who said that is wrong. It is telling us that if people do this kind of act, the results of the acts will be that they will fight and kill one another. Until they banish one another from the Earth.

Either the translation is correct or the commentary is correct. The question for us is which one is correct?

Homework for next time is for us to analyze which one of the above is correct.

2011-03-21 Class Notes


We were discussing some of the tools that a mufaseer should have, one of the tools is the Arabic language. We were discussing Maida verse 33

إنما جزاء الذين يحاربون الله ورسوله ويسعون في الأرض فسادا أن يقتلوا أو يصلبوا أو تقطع أيديهم وأرجلهم من خلاف أو ينفوا من الأرض ذلك لهم خزي في الدنيا ولهم في الآخرة عذاب عظيم

Muhsin Khan

The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.


One author wrote the following in a footnote ....  I failed to capture the footnote .....
His argument is that from the Arabic of the verse, since it is in present tense hence it is not a command to do met out these kind of punishments for the acts, it is simply a statement of fact and not a legal injunction. And all of the scholars who say that this punishment should be handed out is incorrect.

You cannot interpret the verse in a way that contradicts the Arabic language.

How can you refute his argument that because of the usage of present tense in the verse, it is not a command but it is statement of fact.

The use of present tense does not lead to the conclusion made by the author in a footnote. He is invoking a principle that none of the previously scholars of the Arabic language was not aware of. This is a completely baseless argument.

This footnote is from Mohamed Asad’s Message of the Quran, it is being distributed in many masjids now a days. It sounds nice, and seems to be scholarly, but it has no basis in Arabic language understanding.

Now we move onto the next topic of discussion.

Tafseer based on opinion is divided into two categories, tafseer based on praise worthy opinion and blameworthy opinion.

What is praise worthy opinion?
Is it something that is in agreement with the saying of the prophet and the sahaba?

Blameworthy opinion is one that goes against the Arabic language. For example the tafseer that we discussed of Asad is blameworthy since it goes against the principles of Arabic language.

We have to study the early history to define praise worthy opinion.

The Khawarij (خوارج)
They declared Ali to be a disbeliever. They also started to fight Muslims who thought they were kaafir. They were literalist in the opinion. They were anthropomorphic in their understanding of Allah swt (for example, they would say that Allah has a hand like we have a hand).

The Shia (شيعة)
This was in reaction to the Khawarij. They were very pro Ali. Shiite Ali means party of Ali, they followed Ali.

Rafidhah (رافضة)
They were extreme Shia. They had very extreme beliefs compared to the original group of the Shiite of Ali.

Murjiah (مرجئة)
.... semi political and semi belief based group of people. They said that anyone who believes in Allah is Muslim.

Mutazillah (معتزلة)
They are rationalist, they give preference to rational thoughts over the text.

Asharis (أشعري)
The founder of Ashari was Abul Hasan Ashari. He was one of the early students of the Mutazilah scholars. He became one of the Mutazilah leaders and then he turned his back on them, because of the mistreatment of the text by the Mutazilah, they did not give proper respect and precedence to the textual sources.
He refuted the Mutazilah.

Maturidis
We will discuss them later.

The Asharis and Maturidis were called Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaah by scholars.  When you see categorization of tafseer based on praise worthy or blame worthy, is solely based on which school of thought wrote the tafseer. This was the categorization of the scholars.

Asharis and Maturidis tafseer was known as tafseer bil Ray based on praiseworthy opinion and tafseer of Shi’a, Rafidhah or Mutazillah is known as blameworthy opinion tafseer.

Asharis Tafseer: We will discuss Ar Razi’s tafseer and Jalaalayn which is tafseer bil Ray based on praise worthy opinion.

Then we will discuss Maturidi tafseer. Majority of Hanafi are Maturidi, but their tafseer is not as prominent as the Ashari tafseer.

Some of the salafis will say that Asharis and Maturidis are not Ahl al Sunnah wal jamaah. Lets be careful about categorizing people. If you look at early history, the vast majority of the scholars came from either Ashari or Maturidi schools. This is because this is the environment that most of the people were raised in Maturidi/Ash’ari environments. One of the issues we have to be aware of, is that the Ash’aris have some interesting points in their aqeedah, and when they get into discussing certain topics, there is no strong basis for them in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Ar-Razi for instance, was a leading Ash’ari scholar. When he is giving his tafseer of Ayatul Kursi, it is bringing a lot of terminology that is not from the Qur’an. You will see influence of philosophy and the Ashari response to Mutazilah  which creep into the tafseer. When you make these things part of the aqeedah, then this causes problems.

Biography of Ar Razi
Fakhar-addin Ar-Razi (Muhammad ibn Umar Ar-Razi) فخر الدين محمد ابن عمر الرازي -- 544-626. Died in Herat, Afghanistan. In early years, studied with the leading Ash’ari scholars. One of his teachers was called Al-Ansaari, who was the student of Imaam Al-Haramain Al-Juwaini (who was one of the greatest scholars amongst the Ash’ariyyah).  

He lived in the Islamic East and he spent most of his time responding to the anthropologists and the Mutazilah.  He studied and dealt deeply into Islamicized Greek philosophy.

We had some Islamic Greek philosophers who believed in the eternal aspect of this creation and the seven spheres. Ar-Razi was a specialist in philosophy. He wrote books on philosophy.

Those who base their tafseer based on the foundation of philosophy, later on came to regret it. Before he died he wrote some lines of poetry where he said he was studying stuff that was of no value and “this person said and that person said.” Some, like Al-Juwaini went so far as to say that they had returned to the belief of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Razi did not go that far, but he did express regret about the time he had spent on philosophy.

Ar-Razi’s tafseer is call Mafateeh Al-Ghayb (مفاتيح الغيب) . And it is very large. There are at the current time, no scholarly editions. When you read this tafseer, there are some important questions. One is whether Razi completed this tafseer. Some people say he started it, but other scholars finished. But the majority opinion is that it was completed by Ar-Razi.

The other interesting thing about Razi’s tafseer is that (according to scholars, such as Taqi-uddin Al-Subki) is that they have say that it contains everything *except* tafseer. For example, there are no explanations of ayaat, or the analysis of the language. This is a gross misrepresentation of his tafseer. Maybe right way to say would be it has tafseer and lot of other things.

He quotes Mutazilah a lot while making his tafseer. We don’t have tafseer of the early Mutazilah. It has not been preserved. Some later scholar compiled Mutazilah tafseer based simply on the quotes from Razi’s book, it is six volume tafseer. This shows how much Razi quotes the Mutazilah scholars.

Taqi-uddin Usmani’s Uloom al Quran

One of the modern scholars who likes Ar-razi’s work is Taqi-uddin Usmani -- a very different view from As-Subki. Claims that: the explanations are well-organized and clear format. (Note: There are some very beneficial aspects to Tafseer Ar-Razi that you will not find anywhere else there is no doubt in this). Any intellectual discussions have been discussed and then refuted with detailed arguments. He also paid great attention to the links between the verses of the Qur’an. In short Al-Tafseer Al-Kabeer is a concise exegesis and whenever I have found any difficulty I find the answer in it.

Razi is very comprehensive in bringing up all the questions about a verse. Sometimes he answers the questions he raises and sometimes he doesn’t.

So the problem with tafseer Ar-razi: there are many beneficial aspects to it, but not everyone is going to be able/qualified to read it in such a way as to get the full good from it while avoiding the questionable aspects.

For the ulema there is no question, but for average Muslims it is going to be very difficult.

HOMEWORK: Read Ar-Razi’s tafseer of Ayatul-Kursi.

Tafseer of Surah Al-Faatihah from Ar-Razi -- approximately 280 pages long. Some of the sections:
- Al-hamdulillah rabbil-aalameen: Discusses worlds, and the possibility of there being other worlds besides our own.
- Another section: The make-up of sound, and types of ishtiqaaq which is an Arabic linguistic element.
Meaning of the word or kalimah (كلمة), statement qawl (قول), speech kalaam (كلام), then language (lughah) (لغة), and then he discusses the fiqh issues related to divorce (distinguishing between kalimah and kalaam), then he discusses that whether natural sounds, what about your thoughts, sounds doesnt have mass, do they make a sound, speech of Allah, words divided into nouns, word, and particles, then he gets into waswasa.
Do the jinn know the unseen?  Then he gets into tafseer of al-laam in the work Allah, then he discusses the jizm.

Tafseer of Ayatul Kursi does not go into all of these tangents, but you find he gets into tangents and then he has some thoughts or opinions that are really beneficial. It would be nice if somebody could cull the good parts of Razi and make it accessible to the masses.


2011-03-28 Class Notes


Ibn Katheer’s tafseer would be considered a standard tafseer of Ayatul Kursi and we can compare and contrast it to the tafseer of Ar Razi.

Tafseer bil Ray al-Mahmoud (Tafseer based on opinion which is praised) -- تفسير بالرأي المحمود

Ar-Razi’s tafseer belongs to the above category. The students opinion of it was very confusing, greek philosophy, repeated terms, translation used words that are not common usage, rejects a hadith from ibn Abbas based on logic.

According to the Sheikh, this tafseer of Ar Razi is much better than other tafseers from Shia. We will yearn for the days of Ar Razi’s tafseer when we study those other tafseers.

The mufasser is really free to do the tafseer. Tafseer based on sources is constrained very much. Ibn Katheer remains anchored to the text whereas Razi does not. This particular verse, is known as the greatest verse of the Quran, it has important teachings for us.

Problem with Razi’s tafseer is that you do not get anything which gets you close to Allah swt. His way of thinking and the way he presented it, is a dominant methodology that existed throughout Muslim history. This approach explains the reasons for the downfall of Islamic empire. if you understand the Quran in this way, it will not bring you closer to Allah swt.

He has some good points, for example, al hayy and al qayyum, if you mention those names of Allah swt together are considered to be the greatest name of Allah swt, and there is evidence for it. He highlights those two names,and their significance, you have to wade through his philosophy to get to this point.

In the introduction to the verse, he explains how Allah swt varies the information that he gives us, there is tawheed, there is ahkam. This variation makes the text less boring. Quran switches from first person to the third person, you find these changes, it keeps the reader awake.

Quran switches from law to the stories of the prophets. He describes three different kinds of knowledge and this reduces boredom and he says it is similar to moving from one country to another or moving from one garden to another.

It would be better for us if we had the original work was written with us in mind, meaning non Arabic speakers. The tafseer ibn Katheer is not going to resonate with us. Tabari gives us much more information than ibn Katheer, Razi is another extreme and we wish he would stop with some of the information.

Next he moves to the virtue of the verse, and this is something that a tafseer should cover. Unfortunately he did not choose any authentic hadith to explain the virtues of the verse, so this shows that uloom al hadith is not his strength. When you read ibn Katheer, you feel a level of confidence with the sources that he reports, but you dont get the same feeling when reading Razi.

Ibn Katheer gives us sound information, with Razi you have to tread very carefully. There is no edited version of the work, there are no footnotes to warn the reader, there are no dissertations where students have chosen Razi’s work for study. And this is needed because there are some beneficial parts which you have to extract from it.

The only hadith that is close to authentic when explaing the virtue of the hadith is the second hadith narrated by Ali, he quotes part of the hadith that is authentic and then he continues further with parts that are not authentic.

Then he moves to the meaning of the word Allah which he cross references to Surah Fatiha. Then he moves to Al Hayy and Al Qayyum.

Contingent means existence is dependent upon something else. What is he trying to prove when he says wajib al wujood (واجب الوجود) the necessary existence. Basically he is proving the existence of Allah and he is using ibn Sina’s argument, who is one of the Muslim philosophers (in English he is known as Avicenna -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avicenna).

He is giving us the argument for the existence of God, is this a Quranic argument although there are arguments present in Quran?
For most part it is given in the Quran. So his arguments are not really based on the verses of the Quran.

Why does he go through this discussion? What are some of the reasons why Muslim were involved in these discussions like philosophy? Was this a defensible argument?
Philosophy at that time included math, science, medicine which had some benefits, but that field has evolved now. The muslims who were coming from those beliefs, might have doubts as they had entered into Islam lately, so it was important to reassure people about the correctness of Islamic beliefs. So proving it to people on the basis of what they understood, this was something that was good. Sometimes you engage them in the way they think.

During the time of Razi something major happened. It was a slow process. Originally this approach of using Greek and Hindu philosophy was used for dawaah, but then it became institutionalized. It was incorporated into Islam. Eventually even people who were in the East or Egypt or Sham, far away from where the debates were taking place. It became the best way of explaining aqeedah. To the point that you did not beleive in Allah in the way that they explained, then your Imaan is not complete. This way of thinking became a core part of your aqeeedah. This is problematic since it is not based on Quranic evidence.

Eventually Ar Razi points out that Allah swt self existence is based totally on wajib al wujood, necessary existence, because the other things are cotingent then this requires that there should be one self existence i.e. Allah. Is this what we mean when we say la ilaaha illalah?
It is a very dry understanding of Allah swt and it is not the explanation that he is giving us.

What does it mean that Allah swt is living (al hayy)?
Allah swt is telling us that he is al hayy, he says so. The fact that he is telling us this, this alone should have an effect upon us. It means he is always there, he is not absent. He is always there.

And al Qayyum, he is the source of our guidance and existence. This should create the feelings in us and you do not get it by reading the tafseer of al hayy and al qayyum in Ar Razi as all they ry to explain is the concept of Wajib al-wajood.

If we are forced to use terms such as quiddity .... to explain Allah swt, these are foreign terms then it should be restricted to Dawah only. Even if we are forced to use these terms, we have to be aware that Allah swt did not use these terms to explain and there is a reason for it. You have to be aware of it and do not use these terms for explaining the attributes of Allah swt.

As a philosophical approach hey consider attributes are different from essence from Allah.

Attributes are different then essence. One extreme view is that some deny all attributes of Allah swt, for example Jahmiyah. They further elaborate and say that there can be no change in the existence of Allah swt, if something can change then it cannot be destroyed or come to an end. And since this cannot happen, when they come to the attributes of Allah that describe changes (the sifaat al-fa’liyyah -- صفات الفعليّه), for example he descends in the last part of the night, according to their philosophy this cannot happen, they deny these attributes and attributes such as ascending the throne. .They also deny Rida and Ghalab how can Allah swt be pleased with something, since this means a change in his existence.

They only describe Allah in negaive term when it is based as based on their philisophy they say Allah is not this not that. They won’t say Allah is existent because there would be someone who brought into existence and thus they will say Allah is neither existence nor non-existence. They always make analogy between what they see in this world and unseen.

They end up saying that Allah exists but he does not exist anywhere.  Others go to extreme that he exists everywhere.

Instead of going to the Quran and realizing that the unseen is different like He mentioned in Quran Laysa kamihili shay’an and using the terms used by Allah swt, they get stuck in this trap.

We cannot try to unify ourselves with Allah? We should be aware of our limitations It can effect us in bringin closer to Allah (swt) and can only understand Allah using the terms that Allah swt uses to describe himself.

This is one of the diseases in the history of our Ummah and we are suffering from now. Many of the well-known ulema (e.g. Ibn Kathir and Al-Tabari) -- they spent a lot of their time advising us what is acceptable, and discussing facts, but they did not spend much time discussing how these things should enter into our hearts. This left a vacuum, that was eventually filled by the Sufis. But they unfortunately were filled with these foreign philosophies, and not from the Qur’an.

We’re still affected by this today. We teach kids to pray and fast, but we don’t teach them why they pray, and why they fast, and its significance. The ummah has been suffering from this for centuries.

What do we mean by living?
Razi’s view is that everything that is perfect in its genus, is the living. For example, when Allah swt revives the land, then it becomes perfect. He says al hayy means perfection, the more life you have the closer you are to perfection. This was one of the points that later scholars disagree with.

These teachings became instutionalized after Ar Razi. For the muttakallimoon (متكلّمون), the first obligation for the muslim is to have doubt and then you should overcome this doubt.

Does God sleep or not?
Sheikh mentioned the story of Musa and holding two bottles for days and nights, and when he falls asleep the bottles broke. This was done to explain that Allah swt does not need to sleep and that he does not get drowsy.
Ar Razi then critiques this story, that this story cannot be attributed to Musa and ......... and then if somebody says that if you say Allah sleeps, it is kufr and how could have Musa have this beliefs.

There is a narration by Ibn Abbas about what is the meaning of Al Qursi.
Ar Razi says that it is most unlikely that ibn Abbas would have said this, because God does not have limbs etc. What do you think of this approach?

Q: Is it inconceivable for somebody to think that Allah swt could sleep?

There is a danger in using a rational argument to dismiss a hadith. Because rational arguments are based on what you know. You *have* to pay some credence to the source of the information. E.g. Someone who says “San Francisco is on fire worse than 1906.” But I would rationally argue, they have instituted safety mechanisms, so it’s impossible. But if trustworthy people come to tell me the same thing, I can’t dismiss it totally -- I should give it some weight. The same with Hadith. This is not hadeeth but this story is from Ibn Abbas and this story is taken from israliyyat

The hadith about the footstool narrated by Ibn Abbas:

- There are two versions of the hadith. One says it is a footstool, the other one that says it is his knowledge. But the latter is far more likely to be correct. As for the footstool it has come from sound chain and the other one came down to us through weak narration. Thus we cannot reject the report outwardly but go back to he hadeeths and analyse it and then come to conclusion.


Q: But the mutakallimoon would argue that phiosophy is based on clear proofs and evidences that can be proved logically, so how could they possibly be wrong? There is a difference between not being sure of evidence, and not being sure of sound logic.

A: If you take their philosophy, and use it to understand the Quran, you will reach inconsistencies such as what we described earlier, existence, life, attributes of Allah swt.  That is one of the reasons why many of the scholars who used Greek philosophy later rescinded it at the end of their lives and were regretful on why they spent so much of their time and efforts on it (including Al-Raazi, Al-Juwayni and Al-Ghazzali).


2011-04-04 Class Notes



Discussion about the homework, what is your impression of the tafseer Jalalayn that was sent out by email
Tafseer al Jalalayn was meant for the masses, unlike tafseer of Razi and Tabari. It is meant for the simplest of the people. To say that it is simplistic and did not quote the reports, this is the intention of the tafseer, so you cannot critique it for it. It became one of the most popular tafseer and it is found in many masajid.


Tafseer al Baydawi
Tafseer al Baydawi  and the name of the tafseer is anwar al-tanzeel wa asrar al-ta’weel (أنوار التنزيل و أسرار التأويل). He was Persian and from Shiraaz. He wrote the history of the world, from the time of Adam to his time. Ibn Katheer wrote history of the world from the beginning of the world to its end. Bidaya wal nahaayah (البداية و النهاية).

This is tafseer bil Ra’y based on praiseworthy opinion, which means that he is from the Ashari madhab.

It is historically one of the most important and most used tafseer. One sign of importance of tafseer is based on the number of commentaries of that tafseer. This tafseer is relatively larger than jalalayn and it still has many commentaries.

Sh. Abdul Qadeem Al-Kareem said that we did not find any manuscript that did not have any commentary on it. This was in Turkey.

Hashiya means commentary. Which are in the margins of the manuscript.

The Hashiay  (where you write the comments on the side of the Quran) of Sheikh Zaadah is the most detailed in explaining the balagha of the Quran, miraculous aspect of the Qur’an.

Scholars of Al Azhar relied mostly on Tafseer al Baydawi. They learnt and then commented on it.

Tafseer al Baydawi is based on another tafseer, he added to it and cleaned it. It is based on Zamakshari’s tafseer, which is it famous for being a mutazili tafseer. He supposedly cleaned up the mutazillah aspects. Grammatical analysis is still retained. There are many beneficial aspects of the zamakshari tafseer which are cleaned up and presented by Baydawi.

Some points of mu’tazilah philosophy however then crept in to Baydawi’s tafseer. For example, the hadith that talks about the virtues of the Qur’an surah by Surah. This hadith is well-known to be fabricated. Zamakhshari included the virtues of the surah at the end of each surah. Baydawi also included it based on Zamakhshari’s work.

Similarly, Baydawi would re-interpret Allah’s attributes. But it is free from isra’eeliyyaat. Baydawi also included some things from Al-Razi’s tafseer, and also from Al-Raaghib al-Isfahani -- (الراغب الإسفهاني) (Arabic language), then he added something from himself.

A very influential tafseer, and indeed the first tafseer in the Malay language was based on Baydawi’s tafseer. So in Malaysia and Indonesia, Pakistan, this tafseer has a great influence.

And it is also being translated into English in its entirety.

His tafseer has scientific aspects and natural wonders of the world. He is talking about scientific concepts of his time.

He does include a number of hadith in his tafseer, but he does not present isnaad and does not mention whether they are sahih or hasan etc.

Some one who is not a specialist in the field of hadith, as a result you end up with hadith that are not authentic.

His tafseer of Ayatul Kursi,when he sums up the verse, just like Ar Razi, he mentions that Allah is the necessary being, which is the philosophy terms like Ar Razi. His goal was to be succinct. Razi did not have that constraint.

He also wrote on Usool al Fiqh, Grammar of Arabic language, but he is well known for his tafseer.

This tafseer is very popular with the orientalists as well. Some example are:
Beeston -- Baydawi’s commentary on S Yusuf
Margoliouth (published in 1894) -- Tafseer of Surah Aali-Imraan


Tafseer al Jalalayn
It is the result of two scholars, Jalaluddin Mahali who died on 864 Hijra, and the other is his student Jalaluddin al Suyuti who died in 917 Hijra.

Suyuti  (جلال الدين السيوطي) wrote 700 books in his lifetime, some were compilations of previous works, others were his works. He has a tafseer purely based on Tafseer Al-Mathoor.

The portion that was done by Mahali was from Kahf to end of Quran and also he did tafseer for Surah Al-Fatiha.

Then Suyooti did Baqarah to just before Surah Al-Kahf. Most likely what happened was this tafseer by Al-Mahalli was small lessons (khaatirahs) to his students, then at some point they decided that they should start writing it down and making it into a book. He started writing down at the time of Al-Kahf, and then got to the end, then died, so Suyuti continued. But the style is very consistent: It is not obvious that this was written by two different people. Due to the conciseness and quality, it became popular.

There are several commentaries. Shaikh has a commentary which is written in Urdu.

Ayesha Bewley has a translation of the Quran and it is included in the translation of the tafseer al Jalalayn. There is something unique about her translation, it is based on Warsh reading and not Hafs reaiding which is the basis for most of the translations.

Another person is translating jalalayn, the same person who is doing Baydawi’s translation. He is based in England and his name is Hamza .....

Discussion of various verses from the translation of the Tafseer al Jalalayn

You need to understand where the author is coming from. If you recognize that he is Ashari, then you can appreciate or understand why they interpret the verse in a certain way.


When we start discussing the tafseer, you will be able to understand the bias and then you can review the rest of the tafseer.

Surah al Fatiha
This style is very good for new muslims. It makes the Quran very easy for them to read, since it fills in the blanks and missing bits of information. Khan and Hilali sometimes do it and sometimes don’t. Jalalayn’s style is more fluent.

Translator said that she dropped any discussion of arabic grammar which is mentioned by Jalalayn since it is best understood by an Arabic reader. She howerever mentions that she translated some thing .... which is .....

Rahman and Rahim means that he is the one who possesses all mercy and to have mercy means to desire good for the object of the mercy.

Asharis have a difficult time to affirm the characteristic of Rahmah to Allah swt, since it implies weakness.  They will not attribute it to Allah swt. ,as some say rahman is because of some kind of emotion in the heart and thus we cannot attribute this to Allah They restrict by saying it is to desire good for the object of mercy.

They say that one who possesses mercy which means to want good for those who deserve it. This is closer to what Jalalayn says.

Mercy and compassion goes beyond what the Asharis want to attribute to Allah swt.

Eventually if go through the entire Quran, their conception of Allah swt is going to be very dry and this doesnt move the heart and they will not comprehend this attribute of Allah swt.

Surah al Baqarah
You can find Israeliyat.

What should be our attitude towards Israeliyat?
These are stories whose source is not in the Quran and Sunnah, but they are traced back to Ahl al Kitab. Their source is a bit shaky, And they deal with the stories of various prophets.

Some of them are corroborated in the Quran, then you dont need them.

If you have stories that are contradicted by some principle of the Quran, for example the stories that are negative about the character of the prophets, this contradicts what we know from the Quran, and how Allah swt describes the various prophets and how he chose them. We simply reject these stories.

Some stories provide details that are not provided by Quran and Sunnah, but when you look at them in detail, you do not find any beneficial value in those stories.

Stories about Sulayman and they put him in bad light are attributed to the Israeliyaat.

Ayat al Kursi
The hadith quoted that kursi is like seven dirhams is not authentic.

He is the Most High above His creation by His overwhelming power, this is an example of text that has many meanings but he restricts it to this specific meaning. Why did he do that?

He says it is said this about kursi but does not provide any details.

Read the tafseer and see whether you can identify their bias. It is subtle, but people who are only exposed to this tafseer, then your deen with respect to Allah swt will have some deficiencies.


2011-04-11 Class Notes


We were discussing Surah Al’ Imran from the tafseer Jalalayn. Let us look at verse 31. There are two translations of the tafseer and here the translation by Sr Ayesha Bewley is not so good.

Idolators say we only love idols from the love of Allah. Say Muhammad, if you love Allah then you should forsake the idols.....

“Allah will reward you” instead of “Allah will love you and reward you” which is the incorrect translation. So the tafseer equates loves with reward, they try to ignore the loving attribute of Allah swt.

One of the key things in developing Iman in a person’s heart and developing right relationship with Allah swt is to know Allah swt properly.

In the Quran, Allah swt says that he loves this, he dislikes this, he describes his Rahmah. And then this school of Aqeedah which is the Ashari madhab comes and destroys this.

Christians say that Muslims do not beleive in a loving god. They have a verse that says .....

In wudood, Allah swt is loving and the Ashari school tries to ignore or remove these things in their tafseer.

The next verse says, that Allah does not love ...

When you say Rahmah is one that gives reward to the one to deserves it, which is not the correct understanding of Rahmah, what they describe is the meaning of just God and not rahmah. They go ahead and destroy the correct understanding of the word Rahmah.

Suyuti is presenting tafseer from his Ashari perspective.

Surah Al Anam

What are they waiting for, are they waiting for the angels to come to them or their lord to come to them.

Can Suyuti take this verse at its face value?
He cannot say that Allah is coming because stating any action on part of Allah swt, the Ashari school cannot accept it. So he inserts a word in parenthesis and his commentary will be inside the Quran, this happens only when he inserts a word in the Quran, in other cases his commentary will be on the margins of the page. So if you are not careful you might mistake it for the verse.

He inserts the word aml or command. So he says that they are waiting for the command of their lord to come to them.

So when they disagree with the meaning of the verse or it contradicts with their beliefs, they simply insert a word in the text to change the meaning of the verse.

You are distorting or changing the meaning of the text. Basic ruling should be that there should be no taweel and if there is taweel then it should be based on strong evidence. They might say that they need to resort to it because of their beliefs. Note that the sahaba and the tabieen did not have any problems with this belief of Allah swt.

The answer to their beliefs is that it is very inconsistent and they will eventually have to reject it. You say that Allah swt is hayy or living which is the quality also shared by human beings. They cannot deny that Allah swt is hayy, because they are forced to, so they pick and choose some attributes because they are forced to. There are some schools ??? which go to the extreme and they deny that Allah is hayy.

Speaking about Allah swt without knowledge is a sin, but the Asharis were not intending to commit sin, their goal is to come closer to Allah swt, but their mechanisms were incorrect and Allah swt may forgive them.

Now if we know that something is incorrect, we should stay away from it.

Surah Al Araf verse 180

Here it is something bit different. Here Allah swt says that to Allah belongs the most beautiful names.

Suyuti says that to Allah belongs 99 names according to hadith. We know that Allah swt has more names that are not revealed to us according to another hadith.


Surah Rad verse 522

Suyuti explains the verse with one particular aspect and if you know his perspective then you will understand why.

What does it mean that Allah swt is High Exalted?
The Asharis are going to avoid that Allah swt is above his creation. He only mentions that Allah swt is exalted over His creation by his power, which is true. But that is the only point he makes of Allah swt transcendence.

Note: Razi goes in more detail about the Allah swt is above his creation and the creation is below and then they mention some convoluted reasoning about above and below.

Surah Nahl:36

Here it has something to do with the Ashaari belief about imaan.
3 places where she did not translate what Suyuti wrote. The other translation is much better.
al-Taaghut: the translator interpreted this ‘false gods’.
Suyuti explained it as idols. It is an Ashaari tendency to interpret taghuut as ‘idols’. He might be restricted the more general or interpreting it according to the Ashaari.
Technically speaking, taghuut is anything worshipped other than Allah and the object is pleased by that.


pg. 639: Surah Kahf

Jalaluddin Mahali identifies Dhulqarnain as Alexander the Great. If you are familiar with Alexander the Great, he went from west to the east and this identification is based on his empire from west to the east. The information that we have is that he committed shirk, to the best of our knowledge. So to identify Dhulqarnain as Alexander the Great is problematic

And he makes the tafseer based on saying that this is what Dhulqarnain did based on Alexander’s history.

Surah Luqman verse 27

The verse says that Allah’s words will not run dry or they will not be completely captured or extinguished.

Asharis have a problem, specially the Mutazillah, with the idea of speech of Allah, they cannot fathom that Allah swt can speak. They say that it is an expression of Allah’s knowledge but not his speech. This is what we find in the bible where the verse says something and the commentary says exactly opposite to the verse.

Surah Ahzab:37
Allah had informed the Prophet that Zainab was going to be come his wife.
And he kept the story to himself.

The interpretation given here is based on a fabricated hadith. That the prophet had visited Zaid and had accidentally seen Zainab and coveted her. this is a fabricated hadith. She was his cousin and he had seen here many times before her marriage to Zaid.


Surah ....
Baseless Israeliyyat, the verse describes some baseless story of the wife of one of the prophet and that she was a disbeliever or worshipped idols etc. This is Mahali’s section and it crept into the tafseer, it would not have crept into the tafseer if it was done by Suyuti according to the Shaikh.


Surah Zumar verse 67
It is ironic what the Asharis do to the verse, they cannot realize what Allah swt can do.

The whole earth will be handful for him (Allah). The Asharis do not accept it, they say it will be under His dominion and at His disposal, this is their taweel for the verse.


Surah Zuhruf verse 23
Here the translator completely left out what Mahali says. This verse is very important for Aqeedah.

Anybody who came after Zamaqshari were influenced by his translation. He begins his tafseer with the statement that Quran is created. Allah humma khalaqal Quran. Why is this a big issue?

The Mutazillah say that since it is a creation, then it is not perfect. And since it not perfect, then they can perform their taweel to fix their incorrect understanding of Allah swt. And Allah has kept perfection to himself.

The verse according to Mahali is that, we brought the book into existence in Arabic language. This is Mutazillah belief and it goes above and beyond the Ashari belief. This has somehow crept into the tafseer Jalalayn which is clearly Mutazilli belief.

Homework review the following
Page 1199 verse 4
Page 1226 Verse 16
Page 1326 verse 22
Page 1343 verse 15
Last verse of the last page


2011-04-18 Class Notes


Tafseer of Ayatul Kursi


The three tafseers that were discussed in class

Did you notice any taweel in Ayesha Bewley’s translation of Ayatul Kursi?
If you are translating, it is very difficult to change the meaning of a word in the translation. You cannot replace kursi or chair with a footstool. So you don’t find any taweel in the translation. They resort to a note in the introduction and say that any references to hand or foot are metaphorical. This is how they get around performing taweel in the translation.


Discussion of Tafseer #1 from the homework handout

There is no question that Islamic history in certain fields tend to be somewhat conservative. The field of tafseer is built upon the work of the previous scholars and they don’t stray very far from the previous works.

Zamakshari builds on the work of the earlier Mutazilla scholars and making sure to filter out the objectionable content. So does Razi.

Arabs love arabic grammar. The amount of dissertation dedicated to grammar  far outstrips the work dedicated to fiqh, tafseer and other Islamic sciences.

Oxford English dictionary quotes the source or origins of the word and show whether it is consistent to the definition of the word. Similarly Arabs quote poetry to highlight the usage of the word. This started during the time of the prophet, Ayesha, ibn Abbas were experts in Arabic poetry, Umar ibn Khattab stressed the importance of Arabic poetry

Discussion of Tafseer #2 from the homework handout

Mysterious shaikh is the author of the book.  Ed: Very similar to our notes when we mention shaikh in our notes, I guess.


Discussion of Tafseer #3 from the homework handout

Not enough sources mentioned in the tafseer. It kept the reader engaged.



All three tafseers were tafseer bil Ra’y.  

Mufasseerin from Andalus
It is amazing how many tafseers are from Andalus, such as Ibn Al-Arabi ابن العربي (Maliki) - we will discuss his tafseer in a different time and place, Ibn Atiyah (ابن عطيّه), Al-Qurtubi القرطبي and Abu Hayyyan  أبو حيّان

Abu Hayyan
He was born in 654 Hijri in Granada and did eventually travel to North Africa and Damascus and finally died in Cairo in 745. His work is called Al Bahr Al Muheet -- البحر المحيط (name of an ocean) exceptional. His specialty was Arabic language. He was a member of neither the Busran or Kufan schools of grammar but master of both. If someone has a grammatical difficulty (even if they are good in grammar) this is the first reference that they will go to.  He provides excellent refutation of the Mutazila view. But he would quote Zamakshari when he has a good point. Unlike authors today who would quote somebody and specify the name when they want to refute but not mention the name when they pick up their good points.

He had strong dislike for anthropomorphism and Sufis. He refutes them also. In Tafseer he quotes hadith, but he was not a scholar of hadith so sometimes he quotes weak hadith. He also wrote the grammar of Turkish language.

He was Ash’ari and you would find typical taweel from the Ash’ari madhab. You will see examining #1 that the examination of the Arabic language that it is Abu Hayyan.

Sameen Al-Halabi who refuted some of Abu Hayyan’s tafseer has another tafseer which is all grammatical with little or no tafseer. Abu Hayyan at least has some tafseer. Abu Hayyan also wrote a book on Turkish grammar.

When you look in the books of Uloom al Quran and chapters that talk about tafseer, which categorize tafseer based on reports, on praiseworthy opinion and blameworthy opinion, you will notice something.

Classification of Tafseer according to contemporary scholars
A book by contemporary scholar Ad Dahabi, he was the education ministry in Egypt forty years ago and he was killed, who wrote a book on Uloom al Quran??? and also al Zarqaani and Yasir Qadhi. Shaikh is now listing how the above three authors categorize the various tafseers.
TafseerAl-Dhahabial-Zarqaani Yasir Qadhi
Ar-RaziYYY
Al-BaydawiYYY
Al-NasafiYYY
Al-KhaazinYYY
Abu HayyanYY
Al-Raaghib al-IsfahaaniiYY
Al-NaisabooriY
AKhateeb Al-ShaibaniYYY
Al-JalalainYY
Abu AlsaoudYYY
Al-AloosiYY
Al-QaasimiY
Al-SaadiY


Y means it is included as praiseworthy tafseer bil-ra’y.

Al-Nasafi is a rendition of Al-Baydawi’s work, and Al-Khaazin is derived from Al-Nasafi.

All of the above tafseers are Ashari and hence they make the same taweel regarding the names or attributes of Allah swt. This is now problematic. What happens if you don’t like this taweel and you do not consider it to be praise worthy or good?

Zarqani and Dhahabi are also Asharis. The author of the textbook also follows the Ashari categorization, even though he is not a follower of Ashari madhab.

Shaykh says that the above categorization should be called tafseer that is not based on extreme??? opinion.????Need to verify this statement, I might have captured it incorrectly, if it is wrong, please delete it???

No, he said that h??????

The author of the texbook is none other than Shaykh Jamaal Zarabozo and he wrote it for the American Open University syllabus. And he followed the same categorization because he was matching the Arabic text which was based on Al-Dahabi’s work.


The second tafseer from the homework is written by Al Maturidi who is very popular in certain parts of the world.

Praiseworthy opinions are from the Asharis and the Maturidis. Some say that Ahl al sunnah are those two.

Al Maturidi
He died in 330 Hijri. His tafseer is called taweelat ahl al sunnah wal jammah, تأويلات أهل السنّة  والجماعة the interprtations of ahl al sunnah and jaamah. It is published in 10 volumes.

One of the most amazing aspects of the tafseer is that it comes directly from the founder of the madhab. It is the dominant theology in Pakistan. Deobandi school says that they follow the Maturidi theology. After the Ashaaris, it is the second biggest school. It should be one of the widest read/studied tafseer. Unfortunately, outside of Pakistan, it is rarely mentioned. Abu Hayyan refers to it sometimes. This tafseer that comes from the head of the Maturidi school is not referenced elsewhere.

He discusses every verse from a rational perspective. At the end, he might give a reference to another verses. If he had started with the hadith and other verses to justify his explanation, it might have a better impact on the reader.

Maturidi is much closer to the Mutazilla as compared to the Ashari. In some places he is in complete agreement with the Mutazillah school.

Tafseer of Maturidi is so inconsequential that Al-Thahabi’s complete works of tafseer he discusses the Ashari tafseers, the Mutazilla tafseers and other tafseers in detail, but he only mentions Maturidi’s tafseer once in passing, he doesn’t go through it in detail, despite going through it. This would be a good dissertation topic.

2011-04-25 Class Notes


Before the class, Shaykh Jamaal sent out two different Tafseers of Ayat al Kursi. They were labeled tafseer #4 and #5. This is the continuation of the three different tafseers of Ayat al Kursi  that we discussed last time which were labelled #1, #2, and #3.  Our homework was to read the five tafseers and be prepared for classroom discussion.


Point #11 (from the 4th tafseer) is the least related to the verse in discussion (ayat-ul-kursi). This was the feeling of sheikh Jamaal when he was translating it.

What is kursi?
Tafseer #4 refutes the idea that it is ilm based on narration from ibn Abbas. He says that there is another narration from ibn Abbas that says that kursi is ilm, he says that I don’t believe that this is authentic usage of the understanding of the Arabic word kursi and hence it cannot be from ibn Abbas.

When you read tafseer you will come across somethings that are incorrect.

There are two narrations from ibn Abbas about kursi, it could mean footstool and it could mean knowledge. There are many narrations about kursi being footstool. However we have to be careful about being dogmatic about our opinion and say something is wrong.

In this case both the opinions have grounds and therefore we have to less dogmatic. The way the the mufassir here did not do a good job in giving both views equal coverage.

When Allah swt negates something from himself, then the consequential praising of him and extolling his attributes which is exactly the negation of the attribute that is removed from him. For example when Allah swt removes dhulm from himself, it means more than just the negation, it shows the extollation of the negation of dhulm (is this grammatical correct?)

Footnotes of tafseer #5 are not from the author but from the editor.

Tafseer #4 was from Shaikh Muhammad Saalih ibn Uthaimeen, the translation is by our Shaikh Jamaal. And tafseer #5 is Jamaal ud deen al Qaasimi.  We will discuss them in detail.

Discussion of Tafseer #2 from Al Maturidi

It is an interesting tafseer because it is written by the founder of a Madhab. It is not read by many. And to see how the mufaseer handles Ayat al Kursi gives you an indication of the rest of the tafseer.

He does not seem to have familiarity of narrations from the sahabah. Seems to be unaware of many of them. For example his understanding of ghairul maghduubi alaihim and dhaalin is explaining one group of people. Not once does he quote from the Prophet or the salaaf.

The kind of bizarre impression is as if he is giving his own opinion. In a couple of places where he says there is consensus but that does not make any sense and here is why...

He tries to give any possible interpretation a  verse can have. As a reader you want to gain a proper understanding of the verse but you do not get it from reading it. For example, iqamus salah, they establish the salah, he says that there are two possible meaning, it refers to the well known prayer and the second meaning it could be simply praising Allah and extolling his virtue. How could you possibly come to this conclusion? He does not trace it to any evidence. Somebody without good background in tafseer should not approach this tafseer.

The positive thing is that he refutes Mutazila beliefs and you get to know the Maturidi school.

The tafseer is very weak in its use of language.

Given all of these facts, very few quoted him. The only one who quoted him is Abu Hayaan. Another person (ibn Ashur) quotes him but to refute him and that does not count.

Tafseer #3 from Saadi

This is also being translated into English. Saadi lived from 1890 to 1956 in Unaiza, Saudi Arabia.

Ibn Uthaimeen studied under Al-Saadi for 16 years.

His goal was to bring the message of the Quran to the masses. People who knew Saadi and who were close to his writings, say that he preached tarbiyyah. Various places in his tafseer, you see the emphasis on tarbiyyah.

Saadi’s tafseer is giving you the sum of what has been narrated about each verse. And if there is some difference of opinion he ignores it, but if there is some contention, then he discusses it. In addition, he would sometimes give a list of extracted rules from the text. For example, he discussed the various points that is learnt from specific verses and particularly on Surah Yusuf. This probably influenced Ibn Uthaimeen to do the same.

He is following proper methodology on the tafseer of Quran. He wrote a book on the principles of tafseer called al qawaed al ihsaan fee tafseer al Qur’an (القواعد الإحسان في تفسير القرأن). Somebody wrote a dissertation and critiqued his tafseer in light of his book on principles of tafseer. His conclusion is that he is consistent with his principles.


Tafseer #4 ibn Uthaimeen

ibn Uthaimeen was a student of Saadi for 16 years. He is a contemporary scholar from Unaiza in Saudi Arabia. He is the author of Riyadh us Saleehin, books on Aqeedah.

He is known for Fiqh and Aqeedah. He actually spent a lot of time on tafseer. He wrote a commentary on Saadi’s book and also on Taymiyyah’s book Al-Aqeedah al-Waasitiyyah.

Saadi’s wrote his tafseer in two years. However Uthaimeen did not sit down to write his tafseer, he gave series of lectures on tafseer, another on taaliq of Jalaalayn, and these lectures were collected by his students and published as a a tafseer of specific verses of the Quran such as Fatiha, Baqarah, Ali Imran, Qaf and Juz Ammah. And the only thing that is available in English is Ayat al Kursi.

Saadi took difficult topics and made it easy for the masses to understand, specially to people who were not exposed to many different topics of knowledge. And so did Uthaimeen.

His tafseer follows the proper methodology of tafseer as discussed previously in this class. He differs in some places with Saadi in his tafseer. He presents Saadi’s view and then says why he does not agree with him very politely, this is done nine times in his tafseer.


Tafseer #5 Jamaal ud deen al Qaasimi

He lived from 1866 to 1914


2011-05-02 Class Notes


This is the last class for the quarter. We will sum up our thoughts on tafseer bil ray based on praiseworthy opinion. However we did not discuss tafseer bil ray based on blameworthy opinion which we will discuss in the next quarter.

Tafseer ibn Katheer is the safe tafseer, it is mostly based on Quran and Hadith. It will not go much beyond that. Tabari and ibn Katheer did go beyond the reports. The meaning of the Quran and present its relevance to each generation is based on opinion. You have to follow the right methodology and use the right sources, understand the Quran, and then present its meaning to others.

What the salaf did, what the sahaba did, is to interpret it to your time. For example, no one asked the prophet about the Battle of Badr, but a new muslim today this would be a relevant question. It becomes an obligation for the ulema to make tafseer based on ray. It is beyond what the salaf did.  Also questions about the arabic language, because earlier generations were very much familiar with it.

We have to realize that you could stray away from the meaning when you do tafseer based on opinion.

HW: Imagine you are going to compile a lecture on Ayat al Kursi. Go through all of the seven or eight tafseers and find out what is mentioned uniquely in each tafseer. No one scholar is going to capture all of the meaning of the Quran. For example Al-Qaasimi mentions the virtues of some of the ayah of the Quran. You could go out on a limb and say that you will find the virtues of ayah in Razi’s tafseer

One of the main goals of this class is that tafseer bil-ra’y is necessary and brings much benefit. However, one has to be careful about what information is reliable. We must check that the correct methodology is used.

Question and Answer session

Razi quoted ibn Abbas when he said what is the greatest name of Allah? Answer: Al Hayy Al Qayyum

This tafseer is replete with weak fabricated and Israeliyaat. Answer: Razi

Because the book was written for Open University what? Answer: Categorization of Ashari tafseer as tafseer based on praiseworthy opinion.

This field allows you to know the context in which a verse was revealed. Answer: Asbaab an Nazool

Ibn Uthaimeen studies with him for 13 years. Answer Saadi

This category of tafseer based on Quran, hadith and the statements of the sahabah. Answer: Tafseer bil Mathoor

Name of his tafseer is lubaan al taweel al maani al tanzeel. Answer: Al Khazam

He was arrested and accused of starting his own madhaab. Answer: Al Qaasimi

This field will allow person to recognize kataba and yaktaba. Answer: Arabic grammar

The prophet made this dua for him, oh Allah give him understanding and ability to make taweel. Answer: Ibn Abbas

Who is reported to have said, what earth would hold him and what sky would save him if I were to speak about Allah swt without knowledge. Answer: Abu Bakr

He is buried in Herat. Answer: Razi

This portion of the verse may be used to prove all laws are subservient to Allah’s laws. Answer:  Lahu maa fi samawaati wa ma fil ard

It ends with “...even if he is correct, he was mistaken”. Answer: How does the hadith go that begins with if he interprets the Quran based on his opinion.

It is related that this portion of the verse is what is from the earth to the heavens and what is in the heavens?  Answer: Bayna aidi him and wa ma khalqee

He is reported to have said that the poetry of the Arabs therein is the explanation of the ayah. Answer: Umar

Deviation in this matter leads to forced explanations and incorrect understandings of  ?  Answer: Aqeedah

His tafseer could be described as Salafi / Sufi tafseer. Answer: Al Alusi

It has been said that this verse is actually a parable meaning that one must go directly to the matter and not beat around the bush. Answer: 2:189 It is not piety that you enter from the back door.

His tafseer is based on Zamakshari and is being translated into English now. Answer: Al Baydawi

This portion of the verse could imply that no one knows about Allah except ...  Answer: Knowledge about Allah and the only one who mentions it is ibn Uthaimeen

In Arabic this field is known as “naskh wal mansukh” Answer: What is the abrogating and the abrogated.

He argued that since Maida is in perfect tense it does not matter.... who said that? Answer Mohamed al Asad.

He stated that Kursi is one of the angels. Answer: Tafseer of Abu al Hayan

Without this no action is rewarded. Answer: Sincere intention

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