Principles of Quranic Tafseer Spring 2009

Principles of Tafseer II

Sheikh Jamaal Zarabozo

Monday April 6, 2009

Review of the last session:

-How to approach the Qur'an

-Incentive on how to approach the Qur'an

-How to understand the Qur'an

-Meaning of the word tafseer and taweel, differences, similarities

-Tafseer during the lifetime of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam

-His role and his responsibility in explaining the Qur'an and implementing the Qur'an

-Knowing the sunnah is indispensable to know the Qur'an

This session is focused on the Sahaba - who were the major mufasareen?

Chains of narration, strong vs weak. 

9 weeks of lecture, take home exam, final lecture will be the review of the exam

Chapter 3 of the text (pgs 55-88)

One of the things we discussed last time was how much of the Qur'an did the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam actually explain. The scholars of Uloom ul qur'an discussed this point and there were differences among them. We concluded that it was not necessary at the time of the Sahaba for the Prophet sal Allahua layhi wa sallam to explain every verse of the Qur'an. At the time of his death, the message of Islam was understood and known by the Sahaba. There is actually a number of important characteristics regarding the Sahaba that put them in a special place regarding tafseer. 

We will discuss whether or not a statement of a sahabi in tafseer is considered a hujjah (authority in Islamic law) or not. In other words, you do not have the authortiy to go against a hujjah unless you have an equal or valid hujjah. This means that if a sahabi says a statement with regards to the Qur'an, we must follow it. There is difference amongst the scholars if a statement of a sahabi is a hujjah or not. 

Today: What are some of the special characteristics of the Sahaba? In particular, we are talking about the distinguishing characteristics via the Qur'an and tafseer of the Qur'an. (PG 57 of text) 

1. The most obvious characteristic according to the Sahaba and their relationship to the Qur'an is *Language*. What is special to them in this regard? 

-The langauge of the Qur'an was revealed in the tongue of the Sahaba. An Arab nowadays can understand most of the Qur'an, but there may be some terms and nuances that have different shades of meanings nowadays then at the time of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. They excelled in the language of the quran. They were people of the language and understood the principles of the language and its nuances. One of the aspects of the qur'an is that it is miraculous and one of those aspects is the language. To fully appreciate it, you have to understand this language. Is it unique to them, could somebody come later and be similar to them? Probably somebody could, but as a generation as whole it was unique. Eloquence (balagha), the rhetoric of the quran, the linguistic style of the quran. 

2. Living during the time of the revelation

How is it going to affect the Sahaba? Simply because of that fact, how are they able to understand the quran better than others? Qur'an addressed their culture in addition to their language, and so they had a better grasp of what was being referred to. They also understood the events being referred to eg. badr and uhud. They had a deeper understanding of what Allah ta'ala was referring to in these verses. If you try to understand these references in an abstract sense, you can easily misunderstand the verse.

eg.laysa alaykum junaahun an tabtaghu fadlan min Rabbikum: {It is no crime on you if you seek of the bounty of your Lord  (during pilgrimage). } (2:198) ibn Abbass radi Allahu anhuma explained this verse, there were times in Jaahiliyah where people had gatherings that had contests of poetry and they were business gatherings as well. Some felt that going to these gatherings during hajj would be a sin. They had this concept during Jahiliyah which is why Allah azza wa jal revealed this verse; there is no sin upon you while seeking the bounty during Hajj. 

There are a number of such verses in the Qur'an where it refers to the beliefs and practices of the people, and hence a complete understanding entails knowledge of that practice. Hence the authority of the sahaba in interpreting these verses, since they had that knowledge.

3. Living with the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam

Some authors say that this is the real aspect that provides the Sahaba with a privileged  status in tafseer. To live with the Prophet saws, this is especially important. The Prophet's Sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam responsibility with respect to the Qur'an was to serve as a guide, to explain the correct understanding and to approve of their actions when they understood it correctly. This is a feature of the sahaba, that no other people after them can ever attain, no matter how much they study.Even if we study the hadeeth and the Qur'an as much as we can, we do not have that aspect that we are applying it and having the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam telling us that our application is true and correct. This distinguishes the Sahaba from the rest because they had the advantage of the teacher and guide; no other later generation could possibly hope to achieve in any way even if they tried. 

4. They were people of Emaan. This touches upon the fact that theyhave acceptability with us in narrating their knowledge. They have a firm understanding of the reality of Imaan and what the foundations of Imaan really are. Sometimes people come and ask a queston and just from the question you realize that these people are missing so many basic principles of Islam/Imaan. They understood Islam, such as principles of Tawheed and Aqeedah and this is essential for understanding the Quran. What is the famous statement of Ibn Umar? *chuckle* Ibn Umar was talking about the fact that we lived during a time in which we were given something before the Quran. What was that? He said,  "al-imaan qabl al-quraan". They understood the principles of aqeedah before the Quran was revealed. "...but nowadays, you see people are actually given quran before imaan, so therefore they read from the beginning of it to the end of it and they don't understand what they are ordered to do and what they are forbidden from." If you understand the principles of Imaan and you really understand those principles, and you go to the quran and read it, you read some of the miracles stated in the quran, is it difficult to understand how this could have happened? Person whodoesn't understand, he would get lost/confused in secondary issue and does not see and understand what Allah is clearly telling us in these verses and what they mean and what they imply for us. 

5. The status of the Sahaba. Allah ta'ala is Pleased with them - if Allah is pleased with them, then we do not expect Allah to be pleased with someone who would lie or follow a path other than that what Allah revealed.

If Allah is Pleased with them, does this imply that they are following the Qur'an? This question of the position of the sahaba and their status is very relevant for the situation we are living in nowadays. There are many interpretations of the qur'an and one aspect of these tafaseer is that they are ignoring what the sahaba said about these verses. These are not simply theoretical or for the sake of class/exam, but in reality, this is what we are dealing with nowadays. When we talk about more with respects to the qur'an, the qur'an discusses clear principles to how it is supposed to be understood. The principles are first derived from the qur'an, then from the sunnah and some important principles are from the sahaba. Not turning and not respecting their explanation of the qur'an is very dangerous with respect to our ultimate understanding of the Qur'an. 

The position of the sahaba in general, not just tafseer but with respect to Islam as a whole, the position of the sahaba should be clear in every Muslim's mind. 

Thats why when the scholars mention the creed (manhaj), there is a special section for the sahaba. For e.g: in Aqeedah At Tahawiyyah, (he was a shafiee scholar and later became a hanafi counter to his uncle's assumption), he mentions "we love the companions of the messenger, we do not exaggerate our love for them nor would ...". So ,we love the sahaba, but we do not go to either extreme of raising them above their status or hating them the way they do not deserve. To recognize their knowledge, their iman and the role they have with respect to the tafseer of the quran. 

April 13, 2009

Who are the most qualified to explain the document, for example the intent behind the "US Declaration of Independence".

The sahaba had all this qualities

1. Master of the language

2. Witnessed the occasions

3. Lived its experiences

4. Instructed by its "instructor"

These qualities are secular and are applicable to anybody.If we were debating with orientalists about why the explanations of the sahaba should be considered authoritative, we could mention these basic points which show how they excelled over others.

Now, when discussing with Muslims from the Islamic perspective what are the additional qualities of the sahaba?

What is there about the sahaba above and beyond that puts them in a special category?

In the preservation of sunnah class we discussed why (My notes from the Preservation of Sunnah class

1- The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam described them as the best generation. Hadith: "The best of people are my generation, then those who follow them, then those who follow them."Allah azza wa jal tells us, {Inna Akramakum 'ind Allahi atqaakum} - surah Hujuraat. So when we say they are the best generation, it obviously has implications with respect to their imaan and taqwa.

But is there a connection between imaan and taqwa and one's understanding of the Qur'an? Is there any evidence that one who has imaan will be able to reach a better understanding?

There is a narration where Imam Shafi'i complained to his teacher, Wakee ibn al-Jaraah, which mentions how he learned more after abandoning sins - but this is not a hujjah in the religion.

There is the ayah, "wataqullah, wa yu'alimukumAllah" - which could possibly be used as a proof.

The fact that they are the best generations means that they have these qualities, and these are the most important qualities to understand the Qur'an. These are qualities that are neglected today. 

2- Allah ta'ala is pleased with them. RadiAllahu anhum wa Radhoo' anhu, He is pleased with them as they are pleased with Him. Surah Tawbah:

{And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct - Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.} (Surah Tawbah 9:100)

 This is a sign of their trustworthiness and passing on the deen properly because Allah ta'ala would not be pleased with someone who is distorting the faith. 

But how does Allah being pleased with them make their interpretation authoritative? What if a group of people came with an interpreation that goes against the way of the people that Allah is pleased with? So if we come across people later on who come up with an understanding that goes against the way of the sahaba, the "Qur'anic generation", we can rightly reject that interpretation. Because we know Allah is pleased with them, we know their understanding is correct.

3- Hadith of 73 sects "all of them will be in the hellfire except for one - that which I and my companions are upon". Related by at-Tirmidhi.

4- Surah Naml v. 59 {Say, [O Muhammad], "Praise be to Allah , and peace upon His servants whom He has chosen. Is Allah better or what they associate with Him?"} Sufyan ath-Thawri said this refers to Sahaba.

There is no question that Allah swt choose the sahaba and the companions of the prophet. Abdullah ibn Mas'ood radiAllahu anho said, "Allah looked at the heart of the companions and chose them to support his religion."

"Verily, Allah chose my companions over all creatures, except for Prophets and Messengers" ->Hadith quoted on Page 61 of the text book is now known to the Sheikh as a weak hadith. When he wrote the book, he had not found the hadith and now he has.

Sahaba are the most knowledgeable of the ummah, according to all of the four Imams.

The Sahaba combined both proper knowledge and actions.

They had Iman before the Quran, So when the Quran came they knew.

For example,you can show someone all of the verses in the Qur'an about riba, and they can still walk away not being convinced that they should avoid riba. Because their concept of ubudiyyah, their concept of understanding what Allah wants them to do, is not at that level. Like the Christians who continually break many of the ten commandments and feel that even though it is in the bible, it doesn't really mean you have to do it.

The sahaba would learn ten verses and then apply those ten verses before moving on.

So these are a number of qualities that we can mention from an Islamic point of view, to explain why the companions have a special rank when it comes to explaining the sahaba.

There is a wealth of literature, a wealth of quotes and evidences showing the special status the Prophet saws gave to the sahaba.

Question: Couldn't someone say that the Sahaba passed on these ahadith, and so they had a vested interest in ascribing a higher status to themselves?

Answer: You can even begin with the Qur'an itself which establishes their trustworthiness. This is the concept of tawatur which means that it is inconceivable for an entire generation to have colluded on a lie.

Once the trustworthiness is established by the Quran then we goonand say what else didthey accomplish. 

Last week we talked aboutsome of the mistakes that people make in attempting to interpret and understand the Qur'an:

a) Ignoring statements of the sahaba

eg. In the last couple of centuries, there have been some beneficial tafseers which unfortunately suffered from this shortcoming of neglecting the explanation of the sahaba.

Later, we will conclude with "what is the ultimate value of the tafseer of the sahaba? i.e. hujjah or not"

Ibn Taymiyyah says, "if you ask the Jews who were the best people after Prophet Moses, they will say the companions of Moses. If you ask Christians about Prophet Jesus, they say his companions. If you ask the Rafidah about Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, they say the WORST people are the companions!"

Where would you find the tafseers/statements of the Sahaba? If you were reading an ayah and wanted to know what the sahaba said about this verse, where would you look? There are different types of tafseer:

Tafseer bil Ma'thoor (تفسير بالمأثور): Tafseer based on what has been reported. These are the tafaseer that are based on what the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, the sahaba and tabi'een, so on. Not all tafaseer are this type. Al Tabari, ibn Abi Haatim, ibn Munthir are examples of this tafseer.

-Books of Hadeeth are also importatnt in knowing the narrations of the Sahaba. For example, saheeh Bukhari has a section on tafseer where you can find many of the statements of ibn Abbass.Example of some tafaaseer that do not have narrations frequently are the Tafseer of Ibn Ashour, or that by Sayyid Qutb, which have great explanations but often start off wrong by neglecting the tafseer of the sahaba and hence they miss key points.

As-Suyuti tried to collect all of the reports from the Sahaba on the tafseer.

In modern PhD disserations, eg. Umm al-Qura university they have a series of disserations related to specific sahaba and what has been related from them in tafseer.

Last time, we noted in our discussion of how much was explained that it was not necessarily the case that the sahaba explained every verse of the Qur'an.

During the lifetime of the companions, they were surrounded by the companions or the taabi'een. Generally  the taabi'een understood the language, so there was no necessity of explaining every verse because it was understood. In general, they did not sit down and explain every verse. However, the student of ibn Abbass, Mujaahid said he asked ibn Abbass about every verse. 

Another aspect we find with the Sahaba is that they do not have difference of opinion with regards to the Qur'an. 

We find very little difference of opinion in tafseer with regards to the Sahaba. This does not mean that we do not find varying statementsfrom the Sahaba in explaining the Qur'an; varying but not conflicting. There is such a thing as a real difference of opinion versus a nominal difference. 

For example, surah Faatihah, what is Siraatul Mustaqeem?

-Some sahaba said it was the way of Islam

-Some said it was the way of the Qur'an 

-Some said it was the way of the Sunnah

They are describing them in different ways, but there is no conflict between them. They are mutually compatible explanations, and not contradictory.

Ibn Katheer for the most part falls under Tafseer bil Ma'thoor. The difference between Ibn Katheer, ibn Manthoor, at Tabari is that the earlier books (Tabari, etc.) are source books in that they trace all the chains from themselves right back to to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Ibn Katheer took from these earlier primary collections and did not give his own chain like at Tabari. Imam Suyooti's work is also another secondary work.

Another reason that the scholars put forth is that the Sahaba were satisfied with the general understanding and did not press for specifics. This is important point about the sahaba. Scholars often mention that with respect to the sahaba, they had less speech, but more barakah (blessings) in their speech (kalaam qaleel, barakah katheer). Later scholars had more speech but not as much barakah in it. When the relationship between the person and Allah is strong, it does not take much to move the person. When the hearts become harden, then you really have to amaze the people or go into great details, here is the excellence of the language just to get the person influenced about the Quran. But if the person is ready to be affected by the Quran then you dont need it.

Umar radiallahu anhu was asked, "What is abba?" (wa faakihatan wa abba) as mentioned in Surah Abasa:31. Now, just from the verse it is obvious that the word refers to some kind of bounty, and some say even the general meaning was known to Umar radi Allahu anhu. But the exact details and precise nature of this bountymay not have been known to Umar radi Allahu anhu. Ibn Abbass radi Allahu anhuma explained that abba refers to the plants that the animals eat and not necessarily the humans. 

Umar radiallahu anhu made it clear that as long as you understand the meaning the verse is conveying, there is no need to get into the minutiae(<--it's a word :) and into the trivial details. 

This is similar to what you see narrated in the Isra'eeliaat. In the Isra'eeliyaat, they go into details about matters that are not very important such as the color of the dog of Ashaabul Kahf, how many they were etc.

InshaAllah next week we will discuss the mufasireen as a whole from among the sahaba and then focus on one. And finally we will conclude with an answer to the question of whether the tafseer of a sahabi is hujja or not.

April 20, 2009

The Tafsir ibn Abbas - Great Commentaries of the Holy Quran was distributed by the Sheikh via email before the class.

InshaaAllah, we will be discussing the value of this work in today's class or next week.

Question:  In the textbook it is emphasized how one should never interpret the Qur'an by themselves or without the requisite qualifications of a mufassir. I have been asked whether this mean that 'tadabbur' (contemplating/pondering the verses of the Qur'an) is something that applies only to the scholars?

Answer: You cannot speak on behalf of Allah without knowledge. If someone is given the clear meaning or the apparent meaning and then he ponders about its meaning on his life, this is not the same as 'interpreting' the Qur'an.

There is a difference between interpreting the meaning of the verses versus pondering the ramifications of the verses in one's life. One must endeavour to gain the knowledge to first ensure that they have understood the correct meaning of the verse. Following that, they can contemplate the significance of that meaning and the lessons and implications it has for their lives.

Moving on to the lesson...

We were discussing the tafseer of the sahaba. 

Among the Sahaba there are some sahaba who were more well known for passing on the knowledge of tafseer than other sahaba. 

Abu Bakr died two years after the prophet and the two years were very turbulent.

Why is it that we find very little from certain companions, like Abu Bakr radiallahu anhu with respect to tafseer? We do find some narrations but because he was busy in the work of stabilising the ummah as the khaleefah, he did not have the time for classes like some of the other sahaba. Nevertheless, he was the closest to the Prophet saws, and hence most knowledgeable of the companions in the tafseer.

There were some sahaba who dedicated their time to studying and teaching the hadith of the Prophet saws. Similarly, we find some of the sahaba who were dedicated to the study of the Qur'an, and passing on the knowledge of the Qur'an and explaining the verses of the Qur'an.

There were some sahaba like Ubayy ibn Ka'b who was grounded in Qur'an more than hadeeth. Imam Suyooti, author of Al-Etqaan (work in Uloomul Qur'an) he discussed some of the sahaba in regards to tafseer. He first mentiosn the first four Khulafaa, Ibn Mas'ood, Ibn Abbass, Ubayy ibn Ka'b, Zayd ibn Thaabit, Abu Musa AlAshaari' and Abdullah ibn Zubayr. These are the ones who are best known for the field of tafseer. A second group who is less in number with regards to tafseer are: Anas ibn Malik, Abu Hurayrah, Abdullah ibn Umar, Jaabir ibn Abdillah, Abdulllah ibn Amr ibn Al Aas, and Aishah (Radi Allahu anhum). Even the second group had a lot of Tafseer, for example: A lot of tafseer information has come down from Aishah radi Allahu anha. 

A contemporary author, Sa'ud al-Funaysaan, has collected the narrations from Aisha radiallahu anha in tafseer.

The most important sources to find what the sahaba said about tafseer is:

-Tafseer Mathur (tafseer based on narrations of prophet, companions and tabaeen such as Tafsee ibn Abi Hathim)

-Collections of hadeeth 

These two sources trace the report/source back to the particular sahaba, so therefore you can analyze the chain to see what is authentic or not. For example if you take Ali ibn Abi Taalib, we have more tafseer reports from him than Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthmaan--for a number of reasons. He lived to a later date, and Ali radi Allahu anhu had a greater access to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. 

These particular works give the sources so we are able to distinguish what are strong reports from them. 

To see the narrations of Abu  Hurayrah radi Allahu anhu (he was not included by Suyooti to be among the first category however he was well known for his knowledge and passing on of the hadeeth of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). A recent dissertation broke down the narrations of Abu Hurayrah in at Tabari, and he broke down what was authentic.

Sheikh was inquiring how many of us have experience with Tabari?

At-Tabari gives the chain of narration for virtually every statement from the companions he quotes. It is a very large work, takes up a lot of space on the book shelf. The number of tafseer related narrations

According to a dissertation of the narrations of Abu Hurayrah radiallahu anhu in Tabari and Ibn Abi Hathim

Tafseer Al Tabari: Number of Acceptable narrations:  263 /  Weak narrations: 121 / Very Weak narrations: 18 / Fabricated narrations: 1

Tafseer ibn Abi Hathim: Number of Acceptable narrations: 82 / Weak narrations 58 / Very Weak Narrations: 4 / Fabricated Narrations: 1

Tafseer of At Tabari is greater in volume than that of the Tafseer ibn Abi Hatim

So we do have a substantial quantity of material related from the sahaba pertaining to tafseer, although caution must be exercised in filtering the weak reports from the authentic.

The english translation and abridgement of  Ibn Kathir by SafiurRahman al-Mubarakfoori has mostly authentic, but he did not claim to remove all the weak narrations. 

If we were to do a similar breakdown of the number of tafseer-related narrations from Ibn Abbas, we would find that the numbers are biased due to an excessive amount of weak/fabricated reports, i.e. there is proportionally a greater number of weak reports because you have tafseers like tanweer al-miqbaas where there are narrations for the tafseer of the entire qur'an, but they all come from a weak chain.

Ibn Abbass

His qualities: 

-he was only about 15 yrs old when the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam died

-he was the cousin of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhiwa sallam 

-Maymoonah, Umm Al Mu'mineen, was the aunt of ibn Abbass. He spent a lot of time growing up int he household of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. 

-Detailed knowledge of the Arabic language and customs of the Arabs of Jaahiliyah. 

He was closely related to the Prophet, grew up in his household and we know from many chains that at least twice the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam chose him to make duaa for ibn Abbass. He asked Allah ta'ala to give him knowledge of the deen (faqih-hu fid deen) and to teach him at-ta'weel (the explanation and meaning of the Qur'an).From the authentic narrations it is clear that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam did this for ibn Abbass radi Allahu anhuma at least on two separate occasions. 

He was of young age when the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam died and live for a long time after and died in At-Ta'if 68H. 

Ibn Abbass became one of the teachers of the Qur'an and teacher of tafseer. During the time of tabi'een and particular, they devolped what was known as the "Schools of Tafseer"--leading scholars in a certain field. when it came to tafseer there were four important schools that developed: Makkah, Madinah, Basrah and Koofa. The leader of the Makkan school without any dispute was ibn Abbass radi Allahu anhuma. Most of the knowledge of ibn Abbass was not directly from the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam due to his young age at the time of his death, but he would sit with the older companions and wait for them at their house to learn the hadeeth. The majority of his knowledge came from Umar, Ali, and Ubayy ibn Ka'b radi Allahu anhum. (Note: a couple of books by ibn Abbass and his role in tafseer, they talk about the shuyookh of ibn Abbass and the first one they put is the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam..) 

Due to these different qualities and aspects, he had a very special role in passing on knowledge whether tafseer or hadeeth. 

Ibn Abbass used to give lectures in Makkah attended by large numbers of people and depending on the  day of the week, it would be on a different topic (tafseer, then seerah, fiqh, hadeeth, poetry and language and history of the Arabs) 

Even among the other sahaba, his main reputation was for the knowledge of the Qur'an and Tafseer. Even some of the older Sahaba like ibn Mas'ood called ibn Abbass Tarjuman Al Qur'an (translator of the Qur'an). Ibn Umar said, "there is no one more knowledgeable than what Allah revealed to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam than ibn Abbass." Umar would love to have ibn Abbass present when discussing the verses of the Qur'an. Some narrations say that some older figures were uneasy about having him there and Umar pointed to him and asked him to explain a verse to show the audience that he was one who understood the Qur'an. He had this status among the sahaba and even among the later times. 

Az-Zarkashi even went to the point of saying that if the sahaba differ about tafseer, then the opinion of Ibn Abbas is the one to be taken.

One of the biggest problems on this issue is that you have to distinguish between what has been authentically narrated versus what has not been authentically narrated. Unfortunately, most of the writers miss this fact and quote from sources that have a weak attribution to Ibn Abbas. The fact that during the political era of the Abbasid revolt, many unscrupulous individuals would fabricate narrations on the authority of Ibn Abbas.

Naafi ibn Azraq was one of the khawaarij. One time ibn Abbas was at the Kaba, and Naafi said to his companion, "let us go to this man, and see what he knows of Qur'an and arabic." So they went and he said, "I am going to ask you questions about the meaning of words in the Qur'an, and for every word I ask you I want a quote from arabic poetry." And he asked Ibn Abbas 189 questions, and for every question Ibn Abbas gave the answer with the poetry. This is found in at-Tabarani and it is a very weak narration. And scholars know that this is a weak narration. And yet in spite of this, many scholars quote this narration or part of it to show the virtue of Ibn Abbas.

April 27, 2009

Last time we left off speaking about the types of Tafseer and the narrations of the companions found therein.

Today's topic: Sources of tafseer for ibn Abbas - Where did the Sahaba get their tafseer from?

- This is important for us since we are discussing how the sahaba understood the quran

- We see a number of sources, some of them obvious

Reliance on Ahl-ul-Kitaab (people of the book) for tafseer

Who are ahl-ul-kitaab, the jews and the christians.

How and why would they be source for tafseer?

- They had connections with the previous prophets, some of the basic teachings existed with the earlier prophets as it did with the prophet.

- There might be a passage in the Quran, pointing to something about the Ahl-ul-Kitaab which the sahaba could ask them about. But what issues might there be when with taking from Ahlul-Kitaab

- Their versions of their stories may not be reliable.

If we were to say that one of the sources for ibn Abbas was Ahl-ul-Kitab, how does that sound?

So certain groups actually raise this issue in order to throw doubt upon the tafseer of Ibn Abbas; they say he was deriving his information from Ahlul-Kitaab.

Erata on page 67 of text book

Replace Ghailaan bin Farwah al-Azdi with Jailaan bin Farwah al-Azdi (replace Gh with J).

As mentioned on page 67, it is said that Ibn abbas took from Jaylaan ibn Furwah, and the daughter of Jailaan (maimoonah) said that "Jailaan used to read the quran in 7 days and the torah in 6 days. He was muhadhramun became muslim after the lifetime of prophet.ibn Abbas ask him what was the meaning of barq(?)

All of the narration of Ibn Abbas asking Jailaan questions - and there are about 5 or 7 in Tabari - all of them have weak chains of transmission and hence are unreliable.

One narration says that Ibn Abbas asked, "What kind of tree was Adam prohibited to eat from?" but that is also unreliable.

Ka'b ibn al-Ahbar is someone who has been the target of many many accusations, but from what we can see from authentic sources, none of these claims are true. What appears to be the case from the narrations is that he was a sincere convert to Islam.

In some narrations in At-Tabari, Ibn Abbas asked Ka'b ibn al-Ahbar about something. And it seems that some of these narrations could be authentic. However, the important thing to note about these narrations is that we don't have any example of Ibn Abbas taking something from Ka'b ibn al-Ahbar and then incorporating it into his tafseer of the Qur'an. We only see narrations where he asked Ka'b.

In Sahih Bukhari we have a narration where Ibn Abbas says, "O Muslims, How is it that you could ask Ahlul Kitaab, while the book that has been revealed most recently to the Prophet saws is with you; and in that very book Allah has told you that Ahlul-Kitaab has distorted their book. Isn't the knowledge sufficient to keep you from asking? Wallahi, we do not find any of them asking you about what has been revealed."

So how do we reconcile this statement from Ibn Abbas with the narrations reporting Ibn Abbas himself asking Ka'b ibn al-Ahbar? Why would Ibn Abbas go and ask Ka'b ibn al-Ahbar questions? How do we reconcile this with Ibn Abbas's tafseer.

So there is a difference between researching something from information about Ahlul-Kitaab, versus trying to attain guidance in our understanding of the Qur'an from them. Also, the narration in Saheeh Bukhari, Ibn Abbas is talking about asking the non-muslims about these issues. But when someone from Ahlul-Kitaab accepts Islam and is known to be reliable, and when one is not asking for the sake of deriving guidance, then this is perfectly fine.

And we see in the narrations that the information that was asked from Ka'b was kept distinct from Ibn Abbas's own tafseer. So it was a source of information, but not necessarily a source in tafseer.

But in general, what is the ruling on this issue of passing on and taking the stories of Ahlul-Kitaab?

The Prophet said you should not affirm what ahlul kitab said nor should you deny it rather you should say i believe in what Allah and his messenger has said

And we have seen that many of these narrations regarding taking from Israeeliyyat, such as the narrations from Jailaan are not reliable.

Unfortunately, because some orientalists made this claim of Ibn Abbas  - some going so far as to his school of tafseer a "jewsish school of tafseer"! - this has been taken up by other writers. However, what can be seen clearly from the narrations is that Ibn Abbas did not take Ahlul-Kitaab as a source in tafseer. So Ibn Abbas should not be considered a source of israeeliyyaat.

So how did Ibn Abbas make tafseer? What were his sources?

So there is a verse in the Qur'an, "Wa shaahidin wa mashood." (Surah Burooj v.3) Ibn Abbas made tafseer of this verse and substantiated it by verses from the Qur'an (Surah Nisaa v.41 and Surah Hood v.103).

we find him{ibn abaas} interpreting quran by the  sunnah of prophet in arabic. he was learned in arabic language and poetry.

narrations from ibn abaas (extremely imp topic):

there are lots of narrations from ibn abaas mentioning tafseer of quran and must be given in the correct way

Badr ad-Deen az-Zarkashi went to the point of saying that if the sahabah differed on a verse, then we should look at ibn Abbas's opinion, considering his to be the most authoritative. But the narrations that we base ibn Abbas's tafseer on must be reliable narrations from ibn Abbas. In the books of tafseer we find 3 different trends in the tafseer of ibn Abbas. 

The worst trend is with those sources like Ath-Tha'labi and al-Wahidi who just presented narrations from Ibn Abbas without chains of transmission.

The best and most important approach is to identify what is authentic from ibn Abbas however that is not as easy as it sounds. We spoke about the fact, that ibn Abbas has that status, therefore when people are giving tafseer if they can attribute the opinion to ibn Abbas, it becomes credible. And that's why we have a LOT of chains where narrations come down from ibn Abbas. Contemporary author: vast majority is weak and unauthentic. Imam Shafi: from ibn Abbas in tafseer only about 100 narrations are confirmed. 

Text that we have for this class, was a text that was supposed to be at certain level. We'll go beyond that level though. Pg.72, we have a table of different chains of the tafseers that have come down from ibn Abbas. After that we have a discussion of these chains this starts from pg. 73. 

The first chain of transmission will be discussed in the most detail because it is the most controversial. This is the chain from Ali ibn Abi Talhah from Ibn Abbas,down to Mu'awiyah ibn Salih, to Abdullah ibn Salih the scribe for Layth ibn sa'd. This is known as saheefa, a written book passed on from Ali ibn talhah. The

first  note about this chain is that most scholars agree that Ali ibn Abi Talhah never met Ibn Abbas. 

ibn Abbas -> Ali ibn Abi Talhah -> Muaawiyah ibn Saalih -> Abdullah ibn Saalih

Amazingly, most scholars don't find that to be a big problem. Because Ali Ibn Abi Talhah took this knowledge from Mujahid{ most important student of ibn abaas}, or Ikrimah or Sa'eed ibn Jubayr from Ibn Abbas. Ibn Hajr says he took is from these known tabi'een, and since the missing link is known there is no problem with the transmission. Adh-Dhahabi likewise said Ali ibn Abi Talhah took from Mujahid, who was of the most knowledgable student of Ibn Abbas.

However, even though most scholars say that Ali ibn ABi Talhah got it from Mujahid or Sa'eed ibn Jubayr, a contemporary author raises the question - why is is that no contemporaries of Ibn Abi Talhah say that he took from Mujahid. We only have later scholars saying that Ali ibn Abi Talhah took from Mujahid.

May 4, 2009

Discussing the most important chain back to ibn Abbas

Ali ibn Abi Talha -> Muawiyah -> Abdullah ibn Salih

This is the chain that we have to discuss in detail. This chain is of great importance. Sheikh has spent many hours studying this chain because of its importance.

If you got to Tafsir at-Tabari - which we have mentioned as tafsir bil ma'thur. This chain in tafsir at-tabari, we have at least 500 narrations, though someone came later and said there's at least 1400[<-is that right??] narrations.

Sahih Bukhari has two types of hadeeth chains:


If you look at the book of tafsir in Sahih Bukhari, you will find the chapter headings often quote a statement directly without a chain ("qala ibn abbas" -active voice or "yudhkar 'an ibn abbas"-passive voice) - these are the mu'allaqaat. If Bukhari quotes it in the active voice ("qala") then it indicates he believes this mu'allaq report is authentic. However, if he mentions it in the passive voice, then it is possible that it is not reliable.

Many people don't know how to use and understand al-Bukhari, and the various types of narrations therein.

One of the importance of this chain is the sheer number; there are a large number of reports from this chain from ibn Abbass (radi Allahu anhu). The sheer number is not the most amazing rather it is the unique narrations that come through this chain:  

-Allah azza wa jal says in surah Zumar (39:28), Qur'aanan Arabiyyan ghayra dhi 'ewaj. 'Ewaj here is translated as crookedness. The tafseer of ibn Abbass that comes through this chain is "ghayr makhlooq, not created". If you studied aqeedah at any level you know that that is a heavy statement. 

-The disjointed letters at the beginning of some surahs, the narrations from this chain say that these letters are the Names of Allah ta'ala that He is swearing by. 

-The verse in the Qur'an that says "li yazdaadoo emaanan ma'a emaanihim", it is narrated through this chain that when Allah sent the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam with: Shahadah->salah->zakat->siyam->hajj->jihad->completion of deen.

So here Ibn Abbas is interpreting "increase in eemaan" as an increase in the articles of faith in contrast the interpretation of many of the ulema.

There are a number of verses for which it appears that Ibn Abbas is making ta'weel of certain attributes, as reported by this chain found in at-Tabari. For instance, "biaydin" in Surah adh-Dhariyat is interpreted as power.

So again, this chain is interesting because of the sheer numbers and the uniqueness of the reports.

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: “There is a sahifah in Egypt (referring to manuscript of Qur’anic commentary related by `Alî b. Abî Talhah). If a man were to  travel there solely for its purpose, it would not be a major  hardship.”

A number of scholars praise this isnaad and come to the conclusion that it is hasan or saheeh. Looking at the chain from an uloom al hadeeth point of view it is problematic: is that Ali ibn Abi Talhah never met ibn Abbass - and this is something agreed upon. If there is a break in the chain, the scholars of Hadeeth declare the hadeeth weak. 

There may be a hadeeth that there may be someone missing in the chain through the way it is narrated. They say the missing individual here is Mujahid, Sa'eed ibn Jubayr or Ikrimah. These are the three outstanding students of Ibn Abbas and scholars of tafseer in their own right. If it is any of these three, there is no problem with the chain because they are Ibn Abbass' students. 

ibn Hajar was of the view that the missing source was Mujaahid. He says that once you know the missing source, the chain is not a problem.

Adh-Dhahabi said the missing source was Sa'eed ibn Jubayr. the fact that these two scholars differed over the missing source, it is not a good sign. If there was significant evidence to show that one was the missing source, it would have not be something that would be disputed by such expert scholars.

An-Nasaai has a book of tafseer with a chain where Ali Ibn Abi Talhah does in fact narrate from Mujahid from Ibn Abbas. So some scholars quote this as evidence that the other narrations of Ali Ibn Abi Talhah connect to Ibn Abbas through Mujahid.

But, we have hundreds of narrations from Ali ibn Abi Talhah where he doesn't say 'from Mujahid'. Why? Some scholars point out that NONE of the contemporary scholars at that time stated Ali Ibn Abi Talhah's source (note that Ibn Hajr and adh-Dhahabi came much later). Al-Albani indicates that many of these later scholars are just guessing who it may be and presupposing the reliability of the chain based on the fact that it has already been accepted so widely in tafsir.

Some scholars admit that this is a mystery saying, "we in fact don't know the source because there is no source." What they mean is that this was a sahifah (manuscript) that Ali ibn Abi Talhah possessed which contained the Tafsir of Ibn Abbas. So he was not transmitting it orally on the authority of someone else. But even if it was a sahifah, this is still problematic. Because you cannot just find somebody's book and start narrating from it. Especially during that early era where books were written as personal notes for early use and not intended for public dissemination. So you cannot take someone's book without reading it back to him  and ensuring that you have the text correct. 

There are actually a number of sahifahs from the sahaba that were passed on but they were not accepted by the scholars of hadith because there was no reliable chain of transmission. So even if you say it is a sahifah, then it is still problematic. 

This all relates to the connectivity at the first link (between Ali ibn Abi Talhah and Ibn Abbas).

Ibn Abi Hatim in 'Maraaseel' does not mention Said ibn Jubayr and Ikrimah amongst those whom Ali ibn Abi Talhah narrated from. We know he did narrate from Mujahid though.

Some accused him of khariji views, however that criticism is wrong. Plus, there has never been a principle in ulum al-hadith that a person from ahlul-bidah is rejected a priori in narration.

Overall, Ali ibn Abi Tahlah is considered trustworthy and an honest narrator. Imam Muslim has one narration through Ali bin Abi Talhah on the authority of Mu'aawiyah ibn Saalih (though Abdullah ibn Salih is not in that chain). This hadeeth is through a sahabi other than ibn Abbass.Other than tafseer, it is very rare to find his name anywhere. 

Imam Ahmad said about him: he is sadooq/honest, but he has munkaraat. This could mean that he is narrating rejected reports; so he can be honest. It can also mean that he is solitary or unique in narrating some reports, which is not the same thing as saying that he has rejected a report. 

ibn Hajar said that he is honest but did commit some mistakes. 

Mu'awiyah ibn Saalih - the signs are much more clear that he is thiqah, a trustworthy narrator. Although ibn Hajar also says that he has mistakes. His ahadeeth are recorded by the 6 books (other than the Saheeh of Imam Bukhari) but he is found in Bukhari's book about praying behind the Imam. 

Ibn Hajar said "kaanat fihi ghaflah" with respect Abdullah ibn Salih.

When you have a narrator that narrates thigs that are very wrong, you have to see why he is narrating these statements.

Finding him in those books does not say anything about his quality overall. 

There are a lot of varying opinions about Abdullah ibn Saalih. An-Nasaai said "laysa bithiqa". Ahmad ibn Hanbal has a very good description of him - earlier in Abdullah ibn Salih's hadith career he was good/strong and later on he became weak.

Ibn Hibban has one of the strongest negative statements against Abdullah b Salih. "Munkar al-Hadith jiddan" as he used to narrate from trsutworthy sources what was not from those sources. He was honest but he had a dispute with a neighbour who was not honest and fabricated narrations under Abdullah b. Salih's name and left them amidst his writings so he could not tell his own from them when he was older. (Abdullah ibn Salih's books were tampered by his neighbor)

So on the face of it, this is a weak chain. Abdullah ibn Saalih is questionable (or at least you have to look at who is taking from Abdullah ibn Salih - is he a student who took when Abdullah ibn Salih was still young, then its okay), and you have a missing link between Ali ibn Abi Talhah and Ibn Abbas.

Scholars of hadeeth like ibn abi haatim and bukhari; they understood these principles. So if Bukhari was going to narrate from Abdullah ibn Saalih, then it would have been from those who studied with Abdullah ibn Saalih when his quality of hadeeth narration was still good. 

One of the problems surrounding this chain is what has been passed through this chain has a reputation much beyond what is narrated through this chain. Imam Tabari relied on it, Imam Ahmad said if you travel to see this saheefah your travel would not be in vain (he may have made this statement before Abdullah ibn Saalih was the source). Due to the fame that this chain had, many people began to rely on it and accept it based on some assumptions. One assumption being that the missing link appears to  be of good quality. This becomes extremely problematic. If you put together the narrations, you find things that are strange (as Imam Ahmad said). For example nowadays we still find scholars who still rely on this chain, like ibn Baaz who said it was a reliable source (maqboolah), he said even though the chain is broken, the one who is missing is known so therefore the ulama have accepted it. 

Ibn Taymiyyah was one of the scholars that cast some doubt on this chain. He pointed out that Ali ibn Abi Talhah never heard from ibn Abbass and he pointed out the strange narrations in it (many of which were regarding aqeedah, ibn Taymiyyah's speciality).

Ibn Hajar's conclusion is that there are some problems with this chain so you can only take reports from this chain if they are coming from reliable sources such as Al Bukhari and ibn Abi Haatim.

Other contemperary scholars said you neither reject this isnad completely or accept it completely. They say that you have to look at the text and the particular narration to see if it is strange. Sh. Jamaal argues, that this way we lose the objectivity and we become subjective (which according to him is a slippery slope to go on).

Contemporary scholars see the problems with this chain, and put it through a further test (objective vs subjective). For example, there are some narrations through this chain that contradict other stronger narrations through ibn Abbass. This is a time to reject it, because something stronger contradicts it. Texts can not be dealt with subjectively. The text is the foundation of our religion, so they cannot be dealt with subjectively in this manner.

The problems with this chain renders it too weak to be useable as an independent source (supporting narrations are different). When Shaykh Albani refers to this narration in his books, he simply states that it is weak. When Imam Ahmad said about traveling to the saheefah - it does not mean he thought every statement in the book to be authentic. 

If this chain and this work was a collection of hadeeth, then this chain as a whole would not be accepted. Even though this tafseer is from ibn Abbass and even though he had such a high level of scholarship with regards to tafseer, it cannot compare to the  statement of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Some writers did point out that if this was a collection of hadeeth or related to ahkaam or aqeedah, there is no question that it would be rejected. We find it being accepted more is because it is a collection of tafseer and not a collection of hadeeth. 

If it is the case that Bukhari was using this isnad, then why is it in Bukhari? It is possible that it  could be a weak narration even though in saheeh bukhari (since Bukhari also says 'yudhkar an'). Full name of the work of Imam Bukhari: Jaami'al Musnad al Saheeh.

Al Jaami' here means: it is comprehesive of all the aspects of the deen (fiqh + Aqeedah + seerah + any other aspect of the deen). (Sunan works in general concentrate on fiqh) 

Al Musnad: reports that are marfoo' (go back to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and muttasil (complete).

Al Saheeh: authentic. 

It is a book that covers all the aspects of the deen which go directly to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and are complete. 

In his book, he has chapter headings and then the narrations. The chapter headings are mu'allaq, meaning they are not musnad (and they are not from the main corpus of the book). Some of these narrations may even be weak; especially when he says yudhkar 'an. 

Conclusion: All narrations coming from this chain are inauthentic.

May 11, 2009

One of the real important reasons for spending so much time on the previous chains, it is because it is source of so much importance.

Q: ....

A: The particular chain that we mention in the jinn class is from abu talha. Abdullah ibn Salah - make sure that we pay attention to who he is narrating from and when.  During his later years his books were vandalized by his neighbor

Scholars of hadeeth when it came to ahkaam were strict. When it came to other issues fadl al amaal they relaxed their conditions. Also in seerah. Not criticing them. They did not realize what ramnifications it would have in the future.

Unfortunately tafseer also fell into that category. Since a number of narrations are derived from Quran, so they thought it was not that dangerous.

Narrations are weak but he is hujjah in tafseer. Students are good at memorizing and passing the information and we have thinkers of the world who are not good at rote memorization.

Hafs ibn Sulaiman

ibn Hajr said about him, "matrook al-hadeeth" his hadeeth are to be left or abandoned "wahuwa imamun fil qira'at" - he is Imam Hafs!

Hafs ibn Sulaiman specialized in qiraat (different recitations of Quran)

Mujahid is one of the most important students of ibn Abbas and he specialized in tafseer (very little from other sciences is narrated from him).

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari has many chains in his tafseer which do not meet the standards of authenticity in hadith sciences. Why? He was a muhaddith so it was not due to lack of qualifications on his part. Rather, he never said he was going to restrict himself to sahih narrations only.

ibn abi Hatim also used this chain. His goal was to use the best chain. THe fact that he used this chain is he thinks it is one of the acceptable chains.

Shaykh Albaani mentions that this chain is weak; he does not mention difference of opinions, but only states it is weak with its defects. 

Almost any one who studies this chain has to conclude that this chain is weak from a hadeeth sciences point of view. However they accepted it since it has a lot of important information. What are you going to do? You have to accept it. (Ed: I am confused's confusing bc shaykh is answering questions we can't hear)

Imam Ahmad said there are three sciences that have no 'asal' (source), and one of them is tafseer. (other is maghaazi/seerah).

So is this problematic? The fact that scholars were lenient with respect to quoting tafseer of sahaba based on weaker chains?

Q: "I think it is problematic because we spent so much time discussing the need for making tafseer based on authentic sources, and now we find one of the biggest sources for mufassireen being weak."

A: Well, sometimes when I think about it, I ask myself, "Is it really such a problem?" because as we are are going to discuss later, we have to look at the companion's status in tafseer. Citing reports from them concerning interpretation of the verses is not like citing reports from the Prophet saws. With the Prophet saws we know that his statement is final until the day of judgement. Whereas with the companions are interpreting the Qur'an in their own time and era. So maybe the fact that we don't have an overwhelming amount of material from the sahaba is a blessing in disguise because it saves us from having a very rigid view of the Quran. We have enough information to be guided in our understanding without losing flexibility.


A:  Principle is that if a sahabi is making a statement and it is not based on ijtihaad, then he must have received it from the prophet. Unless we know that person used to get info from ahl-al-kitaab and his source for the info might be them and not the prophet. This may be a problem with Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-Aas radi Allahu anhuma, many of his narrations are taken from Ka'b al Ahbaar (a former rabbi who became Muslim). This is not as serious of a problem with Ibn Abbass radi Allahu anhuma. 

There are a number of other chains going back to ibn Abbass - the first being the one we spoke about in detail, which is the most important one. However there are other chains that go back to his more important students.

Chain #2: One who has taken from Ibn Abbass is Sa'eed ibn Jubayr. 

Sa'eed ibn Jubayr is maybe above or at the same level of Mujahid as the main student of Ibn Abbas. He has three main students: Mujahid, Sa'eed ibn Jubayr and Ikrimiah, each being known for a different specialization of tafseer. ibn Jubayr is known for Isra'eeliyaat, and most of the isra'eeliyaat that are attributed to ibn Abass come through the chain of Sa'eed ibn Jubayr. However his main importance in tafseer has to deal with the Ahkaam - rulings and fiqh derived from tafseer. Sometimes ibn Abbass would pass on fatwa questions to Sa'eed ibn Jubayr and have him answer the question. Some of his students even preferred Sa'eed ibn Jubayr's answers to fiqh related issues. For example there is a verse in the Qur'an, "the one in whose hand is the authority of the marriage (contract)." There is a difference of opinion who this is referring too. Ibn Abbass states it is referring to the wali (father of the bride), while Sa'eed ibn Jubayr was of the opinion that it was the husband. (mujahid changed his opinion to Sa'eed ibn Jubayr's opinion).

This is a strong chain, used in both Bukhari and Muslim. The distinguishing factor between these two collections is that Muslim does not have the mu'allaqaat narrations like Bukhari. 

Chain #3: Ibn Abbass --> Ikrimah 

Has some weakness in it. He was declared by ?? to be the most knowledgeable of tafseer. His speciality was asbaab an nuzool and how one verse was related to the other. He also memorized Arabic poetry. Many of the narrations of ibn Abbass go through Ikrimah but many of those who relied on him do not state him as their source because he was accused of having some issues with his aqeedah which were extreme opinion--such as the one who commits one of the major sins is a Kaafir. however the later scholars proved these were not his opinions. 

Ikrimah had very few students and one of the people that narrated through him was Muhammad ibn Sireen. When he would narrate tafseer, he would remove Ikrimah and state "an ibn Abbas", but it was known that Ikrimah was his source. 

*Mujahid, Ikrimah and Sa'eed ibn Jubayr will be discussed more in detail when covering the Makkan Schools of Tafseer inshaAllah.*

Read the rest of the chains, they are quite straight forward.

Chain #4: [It is in the table, but there is no description of it in the textbook]

The 9th chain is important to know;

From Muhammad ibn As-Sa'id al-Kalbi 

He was suspected of lying. THe scholars distinguished between those suspected of lying and those who lied. 

Those who are suspected seem to g against what people are reporting and don't have chains. They are accused of lying. 

As-Suddi as-Sagheer also accused of being a liar. 

Ath-Tha'labi and al-Wahidi included chains from them. 

The book known as tafseer ibn Abbas (or tanweer al-miqbaas) goes through this chain ^^ 

It was quite common to put this tafseer (ibn Abbas) on the margin of the book.

However ulema in the muslim world knew it wasn't reliable, so after some time this was stopped. It's now hard to find because people know that this is unreliable. 

It was compiled by al-Fayrouzabadi. He went through different books of tafsee going through this chain.

There are some strange thing in this books such as the tafseer of bismillah where in each letter is said to represent some Attribute of Allah ta'ala. Similarly with Alif Laam Meem, it is stated that each letter is a Name of Allah azza wa jal. Sheikh is questioning why would anybody spend the effort to translate this book, when you know it is problematic.

Those who translated this were from a shi'a org. known as "ahl al-Bayt", and they also attempted to translate Tafseer jalalain and tafseer Tustari (which are not  completed).This organization did not complete any Shi'a tafaseer, and the reason for selecting tafseer ibn Abbass is unknown. This translation contains some very strange passages and there is no way to know what's sahih and what's not. This source is definitely not reliable. 

Tafseer Mujaahid (2 vols)

We're mentioning this because there's questions about if it's the tafseer of Ibn Abbas and was simply passed on through Mujaahid. This collection is put together by Adam ibn Abi Iyaas (d.22OH). 

Mujaahid sat and went over the Qur'an (3 times in one narration, 30 times in another) and asked Ibn Abbas about each verse. 

A study of this tafsser was done and highlighted where Mujaahid is different from Ibn Abbas so it doesn't seem that this tafseer is that of ibn Abbas. Ibn Abbas was not his only teacher, Abdallah Ibn Masoud (another sahabi and important source to tafseer) was another one of his teachers. 


Scholars called this chain? - "silsilah al-Kathib" (chain of liars). 

-Authentic narrations from ibn Abbass are 100, however they may be more than that as found in tafseer Tabari. 

An important source of tafseer bil-ma'thoor is Fath al-Bari by ibn Hajar. Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, because Ibn hajar had access to books that we don't have and they were not published. Many of the manuscripts were taken from the Muslim world, so there only remains partial books. Some of these partial books are contained in Fath al Bari. 3,541 tafseer related narrations are recorded in this compilation (and these are different from hadith) tafseeer

936 from this number go back to Ibn Abbas. 

But if you wanted to look at the quality of these narrations in the books of hadeeth...

In this book by Humaydi, he calls it Tafseer ibn Abbass (subtitle is: and his narrations from tafseer). 382 reports from Saheeh Muslim, Bukhari, Muwatta, ibn Maajah, Ahmad, Musannaf AbdiRazaaq (missed a few). 

The shaykh went through 119. 107 he (the author was Humaydi, no? confirmation needed though) sahih and 12 were rejected (according to some scholar whose name has skipped us: Humaydi?)? 

Q: Who is considered more knowledgeable in tafseer: ibn Abbass or ibn Mas'ood? Abdullah ibn Mas'ood was a very early convert to Islam and the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam told us to take Qur'an from four people, and one of them was Abdullah ibn Mas'ood. Many of these sahaba who were proficient in tafseer have dissertations written regarding their tafseer, Shaykh Jamaal has not seen one by Abdullah ibn Mas'ood radi Allahu anhu.

(Expression: The 4 Abdullahs--> Abdullah ibn Abbass, Abdullah ibn Zubayr, Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-Aas, Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al-Khattab. Abdullah ibn Mas'ood is not added to this group.) 

Abdullah ibn Mas'ood was sent to Koofa as a teacher and you can that the Hanafi school (Iraaqi school) tries to derive its authority from Abdullah ibn Mas'ood. He was considered by many of the scholars to be the most knowledgeable of the Sahaba but his influence with tafseer were not that great. He died early and when it came to his students of tafseer; they were not like the students of ibn Abbass. Ash-Sha'bi said to Ibrahim an-Nakha'i, I am more knowledgable than you while we are alive, and you will be more knowledgeable than us when you die.

The quantity of narrations of tafseer from Abdullah ibn Mas'ood is not that great. 

Next class inshaAllah: How much weight is given to the tafseer of a Sahaba. 

May 18, 2009

Ubay ibn Kaab is one of the most important sahabas. Hadeeth attributed to him, very lengthy hadeeth or unfortunately a fabricated hadeeth, a hadeeth about the virtues of each surah of the Quran. Unfortunately this hadeeth is quoted in many tafseers of the quran (without the isnad being quoted in these tafseers). This is one of the pitfalls of tafseer mathur, you have to verify what you are reporting.

Hadeeth of the prophet have been  scrutinized much more strictly by the scholars, since the Hadeeth is an absolute authority in Islam, but the statements of the sahaba or tafseer were not scrutinized as much. 

Today's topic is the Methodology of tafseer and the principles of tafseer of the Sahaba.

How much weight has to be given to a statement of a sahabi?

What did the sahaba rely on when it came to make tafseer?

1. Tafseer of the quran by the quran

2. Tafseer of the quran by the sunnah and hadeeth of the prophet (pbuh)

3. Arabic language

4. Arabic culture and history related to the quran

5. Israeliyaat or people of the book

6. Asbaab ul nuzool (Events surrounding the revelation of the quran)

7. Personal understanding

Ijtihaad versus naql

Which of the above involve ijtihaad and which one do not (non-ijtihaadi or naqli)?

Surat Taubah: Masjid that was founded upon takwah. Sahaba (Abu Saeed al Khudri (ra)) asked the prophet which mosque it was and the prophet replied the mosque of Madinah. This is an example of not making ijtihaad, since the mosque of Madinah was pointed by the Prophet (pbuh).

However in other cases, sahabi tying the hadeeth into a verse of the quran and there is no direct statement from the prophet about it.

For example, the virtues of praying in jamaat. The prophet said, the angels of the night and the day get together at Fajr prayers. This is a statement of the prophet and Abu Huraira ties it to the verse of quran (in Surah Al-Isra), "indeed the Quran of the Fajr is witnessed".

Abu Huraira tied these together, the prophet didn't, hence this is an example of ijtihaad by Abu Huraira.[naql, ijtihaad]

Fitrah of human being... is this an example of ijtihaad or not? 

With respect of the sunnah of the prophet, it is a source of tafseer for the sahaba, they are just passing on the information. [naql, marfoo].

Tying hadeeth to the verse of a quran is ijtihaad, this will have less priority compared to the tafseer by the prophet himself.

What about item #1? What will be its priority or importance?

Surah Luqman: Meaning of dhulm is shirk - as explained by the prophet when explaining a specific verse of the quran - this is from the last session of this class. 

Surah al-Takwir: Worshipers and idols will be brought together as a pair. This ayat is explained by another ayat from the quran about spouses/pair. This is an example of ijtihaad of quran by quran, since none of the sahabah attributed it to the Prophet (pbuh).

We have to be very careful about terms when it comes to asbaab ul nuzool. This verse refers to an event but the ayat was not revealed because of this event. Sometimes ayat was revealed due to a specific event.

Sahaba did make ijtihaad when it came to tafseer. And since they are human beings, sometimes they made mistakes.

Can we find example of personal understanding as source of tafseer by the sahaba?

Example from tafseer ibn katheer:

Umar was asking about the meaning of (2:266).Umar ibn Al-Khattab radi Allahu anhu asked the companions whom this verse was revealed for. They said, "Allah knows best." Umar became angry and said, "Say we know or we do not know." Ibn Abbas said, "O Leader of the Faithful! I have an opinion about it.(fee nafsee minhaa shayy')" Umar said, "O my nephew! Say your opinion and do not belittle yourself." Ibn Abbas said, "This is an example set for a deed." Umar said, "What type of deed?" Ibn Abbas said, "For a wealthy man who works in Allah's pleasure and then Allah sends Shaytan to him, and he works in disobedience, until he annuls his good works." Umar radi Allahu anhu was pleased with Ibn Abbass' explanation and understanding. 

There is a difference between a scholar saying what Ibn Abbass said or a commoner. There is also a difference between a Sahabi saying this or a commoner. 

Ibn Abass did not give us a strong narration about what he is basing his interpretaion on, so it relates to how do we give weight to the statements of the Sahaba. 

A word in the Arabic language can apply to more than one thing, so it is a matter of ijtihaad, even though it is the Arabic language, to state the meaning of the word in each verse. 

Example: inna a'taynaa ka al Kawthar. Ai'shah radi Allahu anha said it is a cistern given to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam in Jannah and she gives an explanation of what it is like. Since we know the Sahaba did ijtihaad, what do we do when we come upon a narration of this nature? The Sahaba would not state something regarding the ghayb unless it was from the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and it must be considered marfoo.

Q: What is the overall weight that must be given to the tafseer of the sahaba?

Can it be considered marfoo. They were guided by the prophet, they lived during the lifetime of the prophet. (by author of Mustadrak, Hakim)... considered the tafseer of the sahaba must be considered marfoo (he even said that this is the opinion of Bukhari and Muslim). What he likely meant, a as seen in ma'rifat ulum al-hadith is that when it comes to asbaab ul nuzool, then the tafseer of the sahabi is considered marfoo. Even then you have to be careful as to how they explained it.

ibn Taymiyaah - start with quran, then hadeeth, and then tafseer of the sahaba.

There is not one ruling for all of the tafseer of the sahaba, we have to categorize what has come from the sahaba.

1. The way the sahaba implemented, understood and explained the quran during the lifetime of the Prophet saws, then without a doubt this is marfoo'

2. When the sahaba narrate something concerning asbab an nuzool and they are specific in stating that this is from the asbab an nuzool, then that will also be considered a hujja. That has to be clear and explicit, and non-ijitihadi. because nowadays you see people who write on the seerah come up with their own theories (while rejecting a sahih hadeeth) of asbab an-nuzool and what they think the historical circumstances of the verse were.

3.Their understanding and application of the broad principles and concepts of the Qur'an will also be considered a hujja. eg. their understanding of eeman, jihad, Amr bil maruf wa nahu anil munkar, etc. This is part of their overall understanding of Islam which is from the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

4. If they are in agreement concerning the understanding of a verse then this will also be considered a hujja, not simply because of their status as sahaba, but also on account of the authority of ijmaa as sahabah. For instance, their understanding of 'janaba' in Surah Maa'idah (ayah 6) was that it occurred when the private parts touched (penetration) regardless of the actual act. And this was their unanimous consensus.

What about when the sahaba differed? Ibn Taymmiyyah points out the need to distinguish between a nominal difference (ikhtilaf at-tanawwu') versus a substantive difference (ikhtilaf at-taddaad). Example of the first would be the explanations of sirat al-mustaqim from the sahaba. And most differences from the sahaba are of this nature.

If we find the sahaba differed, then we take it back to quran and sunnah and find out which evidence has more weight.

There is a principle in tafseer that the opinion of a sahabi should take precedence over other interpretations, even if the apparent context of the verse suggests otherwise.

e.g. Surah al-ahqaf, ayah 10: Allah (swt) talking to the jews, that you are denying it, while even one of the bani-israel has accepted it. What does this mean? There is a difference of opinion in the books of tafseer. One opinion is that it is talking about Musa (pbuh) and Torah is what Musa (pbuh) bore witness to (just like Quran); another opinion is that this witness is Abdullah ibn Salam, as Sad bin abi Waqqas said that Prophet (pbuh) said that he is from people of Jannah and it is also narrated from Abdullah ibn Salam that this verse was revealed regarding him. In Tabari, says that the context of the whole Surah points to it being more related to Musa (pbuh)?? but the opinion of the sahabi takes precedence.

Is this a good example of the above principle? No according to the sheikh. This is not a tafseer of the sahabi, this is just naql. 3 other sahaba (besides Abdullah ibn Salam) said this was revealed regarding Abdullah ibn Salam.

Does the priniciple have merit? Yes but it is not an absolute principle. 

If a statement comes from sahabi then it should be given some consideration. If there are any evidences against it, then you have to consider that the sahabi were human and they could make mistakes in their ijtihaad.

The methodology of the sahaba is very sound and we should follow it.

What weight should be given to the tafseer of the students of the sahabi?

May 25, 2009

Next week is the last class for this session. The next session will start in July and it will last 7 or 8 weeks and classes might be longer due to Ramadhan.

Presentation by Br Ahmad who developed the following websites or or

It lets you see multiple english translations and type in phonetic arabic to find surah.

Links back to the audio

Conclusion on some of the Principles in the Tafseer of the sahaba

1) Giving tafseer without knowledge - This does not mean that ijtihad is not allowed in Tafseer; it is just that you have to have some qualifications before you make ijtihad (like knowing asbab un nuzool, arabic language, etc.....).

2) The sahaba did not go beyond in interpreting the Quran beyond what was needed. They stopped at when the need was fulfilled (e.g. in knowing the ruling and so on....). They were the strongest of us in emaan, and their goal was to get closest to Allah through the practice of the Qur'an.

3) We see from their practice/implementation of the Qur'an, the importance of asbab an nuzool. In fact, with respect to al-Baqara v. 195, 

وَأَنفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَلَا تُلْقُوا بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ ۛ وَأَحْسِنُوا ۛ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

"wa anfiqu fi sabilillah, wa la tulqu bi aydikum ila tahluka..." {...Do not cast your ownselves into destruction...} [Muhsin Khan: And spend in the Cause of Allah (i.e. Jihad of all kinds, etc.) and do not throw yourselves into destruction (by not spending your wealth in the Cause of Allah), and do good. Truly, Allah loves Al-Muhsinun (the good-doers).]

So their was a battle taking place and some of the Muslim fighters were going straight into the enemy ranks, and some of the people quoted this verse saying that the Muslim fighters were doing something wrong by driving deep into the enemy ranks. Abu Ayyub al-Ansari radi Allahu anhu corrected this misunderstanding by explaining that this verse was revealed after the conquest in makkah, and that was a time when some people thought that the islamic campaign was over and people could just go back to their normal lives. So they were casting themselves into ruin by neglecting the jihad and the spending in the way of Allah.

So by neglecting this sabab an nuzool, you could very easily misunderstand what this verse is referring to.

We will be talking later about principles like, 'al-'ibra bi umoom al-lafdh, la bi khusoos as-sabab" - that the ruling arises from the generality of the wording, not the specificity of the surrounding circumstance. In other words, the ruling is not restricted to the original setting, but rather applies to whatever comes under the wording of the verse. However, the original circumstances can give us a better understanding of the MEANING of the verse. So once we have determined what the verse is referring to, by looking at the sabab, we can then generalize the verse to all applicable cases.

4) Avoiding Israeeliyaat - There are a couple of sahaba who did relate Israeeliyaat, but in general the Sahaba avoided it. Ibn Abbass, who was related to israeeliyaat - he asked some of the Muslims who converted from Ahlul Kitaab, but for tafseer of the Qur'an, he warned against asking them with regards to guidance. The other Sahabi who quoted quite a bit was Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-Aas, who came across a number of books of Ahlul Kitaab as booty from one of the wars. (He would mention that he quoted from them in his tafseer) 

5) Knowing the culture of the Arabs and Christians/Jews before Islam.

6) Knowing Arabic language 

7) Use of Ijtihaad with respect to tafseer when needed. This will be covered in detail later inshaAllah.

Now we will move onto the principles of tafseer by the Taab'ieen 

Tafseer bil Ma'thoor, or tafseer based on athr (أثر). Athr literally means footstep (trace, mark etc), in this context it means something passed on. The way the majority of the Muhadditheen used Athar and the Fuqahaa{except those from khurasan}: it is a comprehensive term that includes hadeeth, statements of the Sahaba and statements of the Taabi'een. Tafseer bil Ma'thoor means tafseer based on Athar: Hadeeth of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, statements of the sahaba and statements of the Taabi'een. 

There are a number of tafseer that fall into this category of Ma'thoor such as: Tafseer at-Tabari (one volume now in English), Tafseer ibn Abi Haatim, Abdul-Razzaq as-Sanai, ibn al-Mundhir, ibn Abbass, ibn Katheer, Sufyan ath-Thawri (one of the earliest tafasir), Baghawi. 

In Tafseer Tabari, he will present every report/statement/opinion after every portion of the verse he is discussing, and will mention the isnaad back to the sahaba or tabi. If there are conflicting reports, he will bring his conclusion after mentioning the statements. 

Now Discussing: Tabi'een and their role in Tafseer

During the time of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam: not many ahadeeth with tafseer narrations because it was not needed.

During the time of the Sahaba:

During the time of the Tabi'een: there was more of a need for tafseer. For example the Muslims in Iraq, who were non-Arabs, needed commentary on the Arabic language. Bulk of tafseer is from the generation of the tabi'een.

Sufyan ath-Thawri and AbdulRazzaq are not tabi'een but from the following generation. In Sufyan ath-Thawri's tafseer, 56% is narrations from the tabi'een and AbdulRazzaq had 65% of narrations from the Tabi'een. 

The tabi'een were a major source of tafseer with regards to tafseer bil Ma'thoor. Also having tafseer works and copying started during the time of the Tabi'een and books of tafseer came during the next generation of the tabi tabi'een. Tafseer al Mathoor requires a lot of narrations to be recorded.

Q: From among the tabi'een, who were the most represented in these books? 

A: 1) Mujahid (student of ibn Abbass): he is probably the most important figure during the time of the tabi'een. 

  2) Ikrimah (another student of ibn Abbass)

  3) Abu al-Aaliyah 


During this time, regional schools of tafseer developed. These regions all have founders from the generation of the Sahaba, and they were unique in their scholarship so they passed on some characteristics to their students. Each one of these schools had their unique characteristics; the Makkan school differs from the Madinah school of tafseer,led by Ubayy ibn Ka'b (radi Allahu anhu)

Three schools: 

1) Makkah (ibn Abbas),

2) Kuffan school (ibn Masood)

3) Madinah

Order of the most numbered reports in these tafasir works.

At-Tabari, relatively speaking, has less hadith than Ibn Kathir because the former quotes them when they directly pertain to the meaning of the verse, whereas Ibn Kathir quotes for elaboration as well.

Tafseer Tabari:

Total number of hadeeth and statements of sahaba 38,398 - counted by number of isnaad

* Mujahid is the number one source for at-Tabari. Just from Mujahid, the number of narrations are 6,109.

* The second source for at-Tabari from the tabi'een is Qatadah - the number of narrations is 5,379.

* The third source for at-Tabari is Ismail ibn AbdurRahman as-Suddi (Al-Kabeer).

* The fourth source is al-Hasan al-Basri 1,487.

* The fifth source is Sa'id ibn Jubayr (student of ibn-Abbass (ra)).

* The sixth source is Ikrimah.

One of the things about at-Tabari is that he was less restrictive, he gathered lots of reports from all over regardless of geographical location. Ibn Abi Haatim was arguably more restrictive. We don't have all of it anymore, but most of it.

(the numbers below are in descending order as well)

Tafseer ibn Abi Haatim:

1) Qatadah

2) The second source is as-Suddi al-Kabeer

3) Mujahid

4) Al-hasan al-Basri

5) Abu Aaliyah

6) Said ibn Jubayr

Tafseer ibn Kathir (who came much later):

1) Mujahid

2) Qatadah

3) Ikrimah

4) Suddi al-Kabeer

5) Said Ibn Jubayr

6) Al-Hasan al-Basri

Ibn Mas'ud was head of Kufan school.

In reality there were four schools in Tafseer: Makkan, Madinan, Kufan and Basran school. Basran school was more important than Kufan school in reality, because Qatadah and Hasan al-Basri were from Basrah.

If we look at quantity of narrations from the schools of tafsir, we see that the order is as follows:

1) Makkah school 2)Basran school,, 3) Kufan school, 4) and last is the Madinan school which is far behind the others. 

The Basran school has an emphasis on arabic language; they had many converts to Islam who were not proficient in the Arabic language. There was also a school from ash-Shaam. Most of their tafseer was about jihad, because they had alot of jihad at that time. The makkan school is the most influential because of Ibn Abbas radiallahu anhu.

The madinah school was behind because the need for tafseer discussions were limited because of the remaining knowledge still there, they were also more concentrated on hadith, they also did not have such a personality as Ibn 'Abbas radiallahu anhu or someone who was so influential in tafseer.

ibn Taymiyaah called Mujahid an ayat of the quran. Mujahid is very important and we will discuss his contributions in the next class.

It was said that tafseer of Fakhr ad-Deen ar-Raazi (d.606H) contains everything except tafseer. It has benefit, but there are certainly aspects of it that are extremely madhmoom (blameworthy). One of the problems is that he tries to discuss everything related to the verse, he brings up issues but does not answer the question.

Tafseer As-Sahih - four volumes in Arabic which has compilations of authentic hadith explaining the verses.

June 1, 2009

Tafseer al Mathoor: Methodology

Interpreting the quran in the light of the quran itself, sunnah, statements of the sahaba and statements of the tabieen.

The statement of the tabieen composed a vast majority of the tafseer.

What is tabieen or definition of tabieen

The generation after the sahaba is the tabieen

A tabi is defined as anyone who met a sahabi and accompanied him and is muslim

A sahabi is defined as someone who saw the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam in a state of eman and died in a state of eman. 

Is it sufficient to be considered a sahabi even if one spent very little or almost no time with the Prophet saws? Yes. However, is the same thing true for the tabi'een? i.e. is meeting a sahabi going to have the same effect as meeting the Prophet saws? Or do we need to place some additional conditions for someone to be considered a tabi'i?

Is there any special virtue to being among the tabi'een? We have different ahaadeeth from the Prophet saws eg.خير الناس قرني ، ثم الذين يلونهم ، ثم الذين يلونهم Khayru an-nas qarni, thumma alladheena yalunahum, thumma alladheena yalunahum. - but this hadith mentions tab' tabi'een as well.

there is a hadith attributed to the Prophet saws, طوبى لمن رآني و  رأى من رآني "Tooba li man raani, wa man ra'a man raani" (Glad tidings to the one who has seen me, and the one who saw someone who saw me.) - reported by at-Tabarani.

These hadith give special status to the tabi'een. So defining who exactly they were is important. Is it necessary for someone to have spent time with sahaba to be tabi'een? The majority of the scholars consider anyone to be from the tabi'een who saw the sahaba in a state of eemaan and dies in a state of eemaan.

What about the tafseer of the tabi'een? Earlier we discussed the privileged position of the sahaba with respect to tafseer. Do some of the characteristics also pertain to the tabi'een?

Some of the characteristics that would pertain to the tabi'een:

-culture (Qatadah and Hasan al-Basri were from basrah which may have been little different from Hijaz culture, but overall the general culture had many commonalities)

-Language was still relatively pure and their language was the language of the quran

- They did not witness the revelation of the Qur'an.

- They did not have the Prophet as a guide

- But they did have the sahaba. They learnt from the masters (the sahaba)

-The Sahaba were still around and their general understanding of islam as well, the lack of bidah relative to later era.

- They took more information or knowledge from Ahl ul-kitaab as compared to the sahaba

If we find a tafseer of the Qur'an from one of the tabi'een is that a hujja? An authority in tafseer or not?

So when we spoke about the sahaba on this issue we distinguished between different issues in tafseer. eg. matters of the ghayb would be considered marfoo' with the exception of a sahabi who took from ahlul-kitab. one of the important differing characterists of the tabi'een was that they took more from the Ahlul-Kitab than the sahaba did. Things change over time, like in the modern era, some people turn to modern science more frequently. So on this issue of what is ijtihad or not, we have to be more careful with respect to the tabi'een. Mujahid was one of the most famous figures among the tabi'een in tafseer, but he was also known to turn to ahlul-kitab as a source in tafseer.

There is a difference of opinion among the scholars on whether or not we should consider the tabi'een to be a hujja in tafseer. Likewise, in fiqh some ulema and fuqaha consider the statements of the salaf to be hujja while others do not. Obviously if we have ijmaa of the tabi'een on any point of tafseer then of course that would be a hujja.

Tafsir bil-Ma'thur would be comparable to the traditional school of fiqh known as ahlul-hadith. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Ahlul-Hadith vis-a-vis the Fuqaha is that the former would exhaust their source of reports [????]. For instance, Ahmad ibn Hanbal will follow all the opinions available among the tabieen and as a result on certain issues you get all possible answers from Imam Ahmad (yes, no, may be...), since all the opinions existed among tabieen and since he exhausted all resources, all the possible opinions came from him.

Shu'bah ibn al-Hajjaj said the statements of the tabi'een are not even hujja in Furu' (subsidiary matters of fiqh), so how could they possibly be a hujja when it comes to tafseer.

Abu Hanifa's statement: "When a hadith comes from the Prophet saws then it is given utmost precedence ('ala ra's wal 'ayn), if it comes from the sahaba then it is given utmost precedence, if it comes from after them then they are men and we are men." i.e. they are not hujja

Imam Shafi'i would sometimes follow the statements of the tabi'een, but "this was out of taqleed". i.e. they are not a hujja, but if some point was unclear to him he would follow one of the tabi'een and he would say that this was out of taqleed. (taqleed: to follow someone whose statement is not hujjah, Hujjah means authority)

Imam Malik never said the statements of the tabi'een are hujjah or not, but muwatta of Imam Malik is filled with the statements of tabi'een and they are given a lot of weight.

Moving on to tafseer, what did Ibn Taymiyyah say? Ibn Taymiyyah was one of the leading proponents of tafseer bil mathur. and in fact he has a muqaddimah fi usul at tafseer (Principles of tafseer by Ibn Taymiyyah). This book is quoted almost in totality in Ibn Kathir's intro to his tafseer, but he doesn't attribute it to Ibn Taymiyyah due to the circumstances of the time (Ed: Does anybody know what the circumstances were? -> the ashaa'irah had extreme opposition to Ibn Taymiyyah). However, his methodology was pretty much based on this methodology.

"Whoever goes away from the opinions of the sahaba and the tabi'een in their tafseers, then he is mistaken and is committing a bida'ah".

He also said that we know that the sahaba, tabi'een and those who follow them were the most knowledgeable of the tafseer of the Qur'an and its meanings and they are most knowledgeable [in...??]. Whoever differs from them in tafseer is mistaken in both his source and his conclusion.

So basically, Ibn Taymiyyah's view was that there was no room for contradicting the sahaba and tabi'een in tafseer. And he said if they could not find something in tafseer from sahaba, they would go back to the Imams of tafseer. So in other words, tabi'een are a hujjah in tafseer.

Ibn Taymiyyah says most of the differences among the tabi'een were superficial differences (ikhtilaaf tanawwu'). And even if it wasn't, then the truth is found among one of their statements.

He is basically arguing that the true understanding must be contained in one of their statements. It cannot be conceivable that they were all wrong in their understanding.

Q: Would anyone disagree about giving precedence or weight to the tafseer of the tabieen?

So as a source of tafseer, definitely we would have to go back and take seriously what they said. That's something everyone agrees on. In fact al-Qurtubi (d. 671), said that one of the mistakes in tafseer is people going directly to the arabic and not going to the sahaba and tabi'een. and he gives the example of 17:59 {wa aatayna thamudan naaqata mubsiratan"} - the sign given to Thamud was the she-camel. 

وَمَا مَنَعَنَا أَن نُّرْسِلَ بِالْآيَاتِ إِلَّا أَن كَذَّبَ بِهَا الْأَوَّلُونَ ۚ وَآتَيْنَا ثَمُودَ النَّاقَةَ مُبْصِرَةً فَظَلَمُوا بِهَا ۚ وَمَا نُرْسِلُ بِالْآيَاتِ إِلَّا تَخْوِيفًا

Muhsin Khan

: And nothing stops Us from sending the Ayat (proofs, evidences, signs) but that the people of old denied them. And We sent the she-camel to Thamud as a clear sign, but they did her wrong. And We sent not the signs except to warn, and to make them afraid (of destruction).

From the arabic you could understand مُبْصِرَةً 'mubsirah' (the ability to see) as an attribute of the camel, but we know from the sahaba and tabi'een that it is actually meaning a sign here. And al-Qurtubi is not from among those scholars who was strict in following the methodology of tafsir bil-ma'thur, but even he mentioned that this was one of the faults of some people who tried to explain the Qur'an.

So we can all agree that this is an extreme to neglect the explanation of the tabi'een.

If you are going to understand a particular verse in a way that contradicts the tabi'een, how are you going to justify that? How can you explain away their position? We will examine in a future class inshaaAllah the issue of tafseer bil-ra'i. How do they avoid this question? they don't even bring it up! they don't even mention the tafseer of the tabi'een, except occasionally when it supports their opinion.

If we understand what IT is saying to mean the general understanding of the tabi'een, then their is no question about it. But if he is saying that every statement from the tabi'een is to be considered hujjah ...we need to examine this further.

There is a difference between the general understanding and ijtihad on a particular verse. Is it possible that on a particular word in a specific verse was differed upon and we have three conflciting statements of three tabi'een - is it necessary that the true meaning of the word must be found in one of those three statements?

Suppose someone presents pre-islamic poetry to show the arabic definition of the word, of they use other verses or hadith, to show that the meaning of the word is not what is reported in any of the three statements of the tabi'een, woudl that be acceptable?

The general understanding of the tabi'een must be considered as originating from the sahaba and through them the Prophet saws. But it is very difficult to maintain that every single statement of the tabi'een should be considered hujjah. It does not seem necessary based on what was mentioned.

So the ijtihad of the tabi'i is rooted in his understanding of the arabic, the era, the knowledge from the sahaba -all of which give it a privileged position. So even his ijtihad would be considered a hujjah by Ibn Taymiyyah. NB: we are not talking about deviants from that era for they cannot be considered Hujjah at all (BTW we are not calling them kuffar or anything, it is just due to known deviation, they are not Hujjah).


- born 21H

- ash-Shafi'i and Bukhari relied on his narrations

- one of the most important sources for ibn Katheer

- Died in 103 or 104 Hijra

-Learned the Qur'an from the Sahaba and was a master in the recitation of the Qur'an

-Some of his students were ibn Katheer (of the qira'aat), Al A'mash, Abu Amr ibn Muhaysan (these scholars are famous in recitation)

-He was one of the youngest of the major students of ibn Abbass. He sat with ibn Abbass many times (some narrations say three times) and covered the Qur'an ayat by ayat. When it comes to narrations, he narrated less than the other students. He got knowledge from ibn Abbass and other Sahaba, but in the passing on of that knowledge was in his own tafseer as opposed to narrating from ibn Abbass. He did narrate, but much less with respect to the other major students.

-Some people avoided his tafseer for two reasons: 1- would narrate from Ahlul Kitaab 2- he was excessive in his personal opinion with regards to tafseer of the Qur'an. 

One of the principles of tafseer which comes if we consider the methodology of Ibn Abbas and Mujahid to be sound, then one of the principles we derive from their tafseer is the use of ijtihad in tafseer. Making tafseer based on personal knowledge, of course in its proper place with respect to the other sources.

When you study individual tabi'een, you really have to lessen Ibn Taymiyyah's view. One of the things Mujahid was known for was personal ijtihad, and also a number of views concerning verses which would be considered strange to say the least, because thye go against the dhaahir of the verse.

eg. Mujahid's figurative tafseer of 2:65 وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْتُمُ الَّذِينَ اعْتَدَواْ مِنكُمْ فِي السَّبْتِ فَقُلْنَا لَهُمْ كُونُواْ قِرَدَةً خَاسِئِينَ

And you had already known about those who transgressed among you concerning the sabbath, and We said to them, "Be apes, despised."

Mujahid said its just a parable like the parable in surah jumuah, it didn't occur. Tabari said mujahid's statement goes agaisnt the apparent meaning of the verse, their is no evidence for it, and it contradicts what others have said.

The parable in surah jumuah is clearly a parable because of the wording of the verse. But in this verse the clear wording of the verse and the understanding of everyone is that this is literal and not a parable.

In the ayah in surah Ma'idah:114 where Esa alayhi salam made duaa for the table spread, Mujahid said a table spread was never sent down but only is a similitude. 

Ibn Kathir said this statement was authentically related from Mujahid but it is a strange opinion that goes against the apaprent meaning of the verse.

eg. 7:8  وَالْوَزْنُ يَوْمَئِذٍ الْحَقُّ فَمَن ثَقُلَتْ مَوَازِينُهُ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

And the weighing [of deeds] that Day will be the truth. So those whose scales are heavy - it is they who will be the successful.

Mujahid said al-Wazn means al-Qada (not an actual scale).

so you see the concept of ta'weel (taking the apparent meaning of the verse and saying that it is not what the verse really means) sometimes in the tafseer of Mujahid.

So the view that every single statement of the tabi'een in tafseer is hujjah - this view is really going too far and untenable when you examine specific examples.

So we have now concluded our discussion of the sources of tafseer in the time of the Prophet saws, the time of the sahaba, and the time of the tabi'een.