Principles of Tafseer Summer 2011

Principles of Tafseer: Approaches to Tafseer (Summer 2011)

Required Textbook: Jamaal Zarabozo, Methodologies of the Qur'anic Commentators (See the pdf attachment sent by Shaikh Jamaal)

Grading: Perhaps a “take-home” exam

When: Mondays 6:15 PDT - 7:15 PDT from May 30, 2011 to July 25, 2011

Basic Outline of the Class

Background Reading:

Ijtihaad and Tafseer (Text, pp. 146-155);

The Use of “Opinion” in Tafseer (Text, pp. 180-183)

Topic 1: Examples of Tafseers of “Blameworthy Opinion” (Text, pp. 186-188)

2011-05-30 Class Notes

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


How tafseer has been done? Who has done the tafseer? We have already discussed different types of tafseers.

Categories of Tafseer

1. Tafseer bil Ma’thoor (تفسير بالمأثورأ) - tafseer based on reports. There are some tafseer that are pure, for example tafseer of Abi ibn Haatim, .... , ....

Tabari and Katheer are mixed, they are based on reports and also have opinion. They give more information about reports, such as more details about chains.

2. Tafseer bil Raiy - tafseer based on Opinion, which can be further divided into praiseworthy and blameworthy opinion.

2a. Tafseer bil Ra’y al maqbool (تفسير بالرأي المقبول) - tafseer based on acceptable opinions. Majority of them are actually Ashari.

2b. Tafseer bil Ra’y al madhmoom (تفسير بالرأي المذموم) - based on blameworthy or unacceptable opinions.

All of the heretical groups in Islam have works of tafseer. Why did the focus on tafseer? They did it to justify their theology based on the Qur'an. All muslims agree on the Qur'an, and if you can use the Qur'an to defend your opinion, then it would be the strongest argument for your point of view.

However, unfortunately you have two attitudes when approaching the Qur'an, you allow the Qur'an to speak for itself, or you can approach it with your mind made up and twist the Qur'an to fit your mold.

Most people when they read the Qur’an they can see there is a clear meaning to it. Even non-Muslims like Karen Armstrong have said so (which is very surprising if you know more about her). You walk away from the Qur’an knowing what the basic message of the Qur’an is -- even if the translation is not that good. If you read the Bible, you do not get that.

The further away you go from the Qur’an’s meanings, the more you have to twist its meanings.  

How do the scholars of ahl al sunnah call the heritical groups?

They call them ahl ul biddah wa ahwa’ (أهل البدع و الأهواء). Ahwa’ means they have some opinion or feeling based on their desire and not based on truth. This is intellectual desire, as opposed to some other kind of desires.

If you look at history of tafseer, you will find tafseer from Mutazilah, Qadiayanis, Shia, Zaidis, Qadianis, Bahais, Baatiniyyah (they say the outer meaning of the quran is not what it means, they say the outer meaning is kufr), Khawarij, Ibaadiyyah.  

Footnote: There is one big exception, somebody is missing from this list, who is it? They are not interested or keen in finding proofs for their beliefs based on the Qur'an. It is the progressives. They do have a translation of the Qur'an.

They have series of articles which formulate their take on Islam such as Progressive Muslims by Omid Safi. In an opening chapter of the book by Omid Safi, which is 29 pages long, he opens with a verse of the Qur'an and a quote from Bob Dylan. The chapter has quotes from Gandhi and others. Shaykh Jamaal is highlighting how infrequently the progressives rely on the verses of the Qur’an.

Another chapter is by Khaled Abou El-Fadl, that was 44 pages long that refers to 3 verses, but doesn’t quote them.

In an article about transforming feminism, Islam gender and justice, you would expect it to quote a verse from the Qur’an, there is not one verse is quoted. Another chapter on scholars, they do not quote any verse of the Qur’an. They see that there is no need to use the Qur’an to support or give further credence to their beliefs.

Q: What is the difference between modernists and progressive?

A: Modernists are trying to work within the existing sources, but progressives are post-modern -- they don’t believe that there is any need to refer to sources. Some in the book, e.g. Khaled Abou El Fadl is probably modernist rather than progressive.

Modern texts refer to authorities in tafseer. It is important to know their names, to understand what group they are and where they are coming from. So if someone gives a position, then gives a list of Mu’tazilah and Shi’a, then you know you may need to be a little careful.

It is also useful to see how people abuse the Qur’an. There are 3 or 4 important reasons to do it:

1. To see how we can refute them

2. Understand their mistakes and stay away from their mistakes.

3. Appreciate the beauty of correct tafseer when you see the blameworthy tafseers

4. When discussing with others, you might find some people have incorrect beliefs, and if you know the source of it, you can understand them better

Mu’tazilah Belief

Why should we study the Mu’tazilah? Among all different heretical groups, why do they have a position of prominence?

1. They were very active in tafseer. Zamakshari is one of the many scholars who wrote a great deal of tafseer.

2. Even though they were heretical, they were very influential upon others in matters of tafseer. Even though they were not a dominant group, they died out in few centuries, however what they have produced has influenced a lot of Muslim scholars, such as qatiee and dhanni and mutawaatir vs non-mutawaatir concepts which we studied, were forced upon us by the Mutazillah scholars. Their influence was more pronounced.

3. One of their tafseers had a very significant influence, even on non-Mu’tazili tafseers.

4. There are people nowadays who are trying to revive their heritage and revive them as heroes and there is a call to go back to the way of the Mu’tazilas. This is a bogus call, because about 90% of the beliefs of the Mu’tazilah are not relevant, but there are 1 or 2 key points.

One of the signs of the importance of a tafseer is to look at manuscripts in public libraries. When you see the large number of copies of different books, you can see how important they are. It is one of the amazing things that Zamakhshari’s tafseer is that you can find numerous copies throughout the Muslim world.  

How would you describe Mu’tazilah? Who are the Mu’tazilah?

Mu’tazilah are different from the philosophers, you have to distinguish it.

One of the things that contributed to the Mu’tazilah was debating with non-Muslims to defend Islam. This is why we have to be wary. Sometimes when defending Islam, people who do da’wah sometimes have to explain something from the Qur’an and Sunnah to make it acceptable to non-Muslims. They give them some kind of rational explanation. Sometimes the rational explanation doesn’t have much link to the Qur’an and Sunnah. The Mu’tazilah felt that only they could defend the deen. They explained the Qur’an in a way that made sense to non-Muslims, but sometimes we don’t accept that we have complete comprehension of the Qur’an.

And if you pick up their tafseer what interesting things would you find in it?

A contemporary scholar tried to reconstruct the early Mu’tazilah belief by reviewing the work of scholars who quoted the Mu’tazilah scholars. Publisher who reviewed the work said that he expected the Mu’tazilah would fall into tafseer based on blameworthy opinion, but he said that he did not expect the great rationalist who were interpreting the quran in the light of the quran and the sunnah and hadith, to see that their tafseer is restricted to their time and beliefs. The publisher was negatively surprised, but we should be pleasantly surprised. So as a whole, you could take out the Mu’tazili aspects of those early tafseers and it would still be a good tafseer. So for example, Al-Baydawi and Al-Nasafi’s works are still based on Al-Zamakhshari’s tafseer. The collector of the books were Nabha.

So, while it is not for everyone to do, it is possible for scholars to go to some of these tafseers that are not “off the wall”, it is still very possible to extract great benefit from them.

It is very easy to define who the Mu’tazilah. There are 5 pillars to being Mu’tazilah. While the Mu’tazilah belief died, however heavily Mu’tazili influenced tafseer continued amongst the Shia, Zaidis and Ibaadis. These three are mu’tazilah in their beliefs.

How did the Mu’tazilah begin?

Definition of the word Mu’tazilah: To separate or withdraw.

The Mu’tazilah never called themselves Mu’tazilah since it was a derogatory term. They called themselves people of justice and belief -- ahlul adl wal tawheed (أهل العدل و التوحيد). Later on they called themselves Mu’tazilah.

Famous story of the beginning of their belief

Al Hassan al Basri and Waasil ibn Ataa are the main players in the story. Ataa was a student of Hassan al Basri.

Somebody came to a session taught by Hassan al Basri and said that there are among us a group of people who say that if you commit a major sin then you are not in the fold of islam, such as the khawarij and the murji’a said that you will not face hellfire even if you commit major sins. His question was what is the status of people who commit major sins, is it the khawarij or the murjia who are correct?

Ataa did not wait for Al Basri to respond and said that they are in between the two positions (they are in hell forever but they are not kaafir). Wasl was so sure of his opinion that he separated from Al Hassan Al Basri and so the Mu’tazila began.  

2011-06-06 Class Notes

Origins of Mu’tazila Madhab

Continuing with the discussion of the Mu’tazila. Discuss their history + beliefs and their approach to tafseer. Every group will try to force their beliefs onto the Qur’an. Mu’tazilah are popular in the Western world. Sheikh will send a handout with the names of all the people and a timeline.

Important figures in the Mu’tazilah Madhab:

Wasl ibn Ataa d.140 (واصل ابن عطاء) Founder of the Basri school of Mu’tazilah

He was the one who left the group of Hasan al Basri, who was from Basrah.  Wasl ibn Ataa had a student whose name was ‘Amr ibn ‘Ubaid (عمرو ابن عبيد) who was from Baghdad and he returned to Baghdad. So Hasan al Basri had two students who started two opposite factions. People think differently, and this means that there are usually lots of divisions amongst the Mu’tazila. There were 30 sects among the Mu’tazilah. So we have Basri school and Baghdadi school.

Amr ibn Ubaid d.150 (عمرو ابن عبيد) Founder of the Baghdadi school of Mu’tazilah

He was very devout worshipper, he was very pious. Dhahabi said that some people were deceived and they thought that he might know the religion, This happens even nowadays, if somebody sits in the Masjid for a long time. He also was a student of Al Hasan al Basri. He was not worried about this dunya.

As a narrator, he was not trustworthy. He brought up some very interesting beliefs, e.g. if the Surah about Abu Lahab is in the lawh al-mahfooz, then it would mean that Allah has no proof or hujjah on human beings. If it was written that Abu Lahab was sent to hell, then it would mean that he creates people then sends them to hellfire. Similarly the hadith (from the 40 Hadith of Nawawi) about the foetus developing in the womb and it’s fate being determined, he said that if I heard Al A’mash say it, I would have told him that you were a liar and if I heard it from the Prophet (SAWS), I would have asked him to repeat it. This shows he did not have respect for the prophet.

Waasil and Amr became very close (and one of them married the other’s sister). The ruler, Al-Mansour was impressed by Amr and his Zuhd. Al-Dhahabi said that Al-Mansour was impressed by his zuhd and his ikhlaas, but he overlooked his bid’a.

So now we have a school in Baghdad developing, and another one in Basra. Iraq was also the seat of the Khilaafah (with the Abaasid empire). So if they have influence in Iraq, then they can have an impact on all of them.

Darar ibn Amr d.190 (ضرار ابن عمرو)

Because of his numerous clear statements of disbelief (what statements???), Ahmad ibn Hanbal was brought and testified against him and he was ordered to be killed, however he escaped from his house.

These three were the founders of the Mu’tazilah school. They are called Qadriyah. What does that term imply? They deny Allah’s Qadr and they give humans the power of Qadr. They were also called al-mu’tila    (المعطلة) which means they are the deniers of the attributes of Allah swt.

They also said that Allah did not have knowledge but he swt had essence of knowledge????  Sheikh cannot fathom how they would think like this.

Abu Al-hudayl al-Allaf (أبو الهذيل العلّاف)

By the time we reach him, there is a more systematic set of beliefs of the Mu’tazilah. He was from the Basrah school. He is atttributed to the book, al Usool al khamsa (الأصول الخمسة), the five foundations. These became the foundations of the Mu’tazili belief.

He claimed that people of Jannah will stop have any motion, they will not speak any more and the bounties of jannah will discontinue.

One of the reasons why they want to deny the attributes, is because they want to deny any thing that will coexist with Allah swt. And they do not want any co-eternals and end up with one more God.

He went to the extreme and said Allah’s qudrah is Allah and His knowledge is Allah. (Arabic version of the saying is ....) He also believed he was a deist: once the creation is put forth, Allah swt had no power over any of the creation.

In the Baghdadi school is someone by the name of Bishr ibn Al-Mu’tamir. The Baghdadi schools were much closer to the Shi’a than the Basri school. Also the Abbasi empire justified their existence by being the family of the Prophet (SAWS).

To the extent that Al Mamoon the Abbasid Khalifa, designated after him Ali Al-Rida (who was Shia) as the Khalifa and the Mu’tazilah supported him. Ali Al-Rida died shortly after that, but it did show the closeness of the Mu’tazilahto the govt and the Mu’tazilah to the Shi’a. The influence of the Mu’tazilah on Al-Ma’moon to the extent that he put all the scholars to a test to check. The vast majority of the scholars from Ahl Al-Sunnah Wa Al-Jamaah succumbed, as a kind of necessity. However Ahmad b. Hanbal refused to compromise in any way.

Abu Ali  al Jubbaa’iy (أبو على الجبّائ) and his son Abu Haashim ...

After that came one of the important tafseers was from Abu Ali and his son Abu Haashim. Eventually the father and his son disagreed, to such an extreme that they called each other kaafir. Al-Ash’ari studied with Abu ‘Ali.

This is the natural result of starting with logic first, instead of with the Qur’an and Sunnah because logic opens the door to more division. The Mu’tazilah were Hanafi in fiqh and Shi’i in their political views.

Qadi Abdul Jabbar

Most prolific writer in the Mu’tazilah school. He is from the Basri school and it had become very close to the Shia school. By this time, the first row of funeral prayers was reserved only for the Shia and the Zaidi’s.

Sharif al Murtada

He was a student of Qadi Abdul Jabbar. He was an important link between the Shi’a and the Mu’tazilah. So if you want to see the early Mu’tazili tafseers one major source is the original Shi’a tafseers.

Basic beliefs of the Mu’tazilah

In order to be from the Mu’tazilah school, you have to believe in the 5 basic pillars.

1. Al-tawhid (unification)

2. Al-adl (justice).

3. Al-wa3d wal wa3eed. Promise and threat.

4. Manzila bayna manzilatain (a level between two levels)

5. Al-Amr bil Ma3roof wal-nahy 3an il munkar (enjoining good and forbidding evil)

These sound good, but they have very different understandings. So they were very afraid of anything co-eternal with Allah swt and stripped Allah swt of many attributes. They stripped any kind of anthropomorphism from Allah (SWT). For example, they said that Allah swt cannot be seen on the day of judgement, they say if he can be seen, then it implies that he has some physical qualites and it is impossible for Allah swt.

They say that Qur’an is not the speech of Allah swt and it is something that is created by Allah swt. And as a consequence, it has all the ramifications of something that is created.

Note: not all the beliefs of the M are not all extreme and unusual. Many of their beliefs are very sensible and consistent with Ahlul Sunnah wal jama’ah.

Qadi Abdul Jabbar in his writings says that God being unique implies he does not share any attributes with anybody else. Don’t expect to find everything they say to be incorrect or strange beliefs. A lot of their concept of tauheed is sound.

However if you strip attributes of Allah swt, you are denying yourself the knowledge of Allah swt and this is going to effect you. And obviously this is not a good thing.

Their definition of Adl, but here they are talking about it with respect to Allah (SWT). They say that Allah does not create the things in this world, they are created by individuals. He does not create any of the deeds. This is what they mean by justice. Because if Allah creates the deeds, then he is responsible for the deeds. If Allah punishes people for deeds he created, then that would be unjust. There’s a big difference between saying that humans have free will, it is a big jump to go from that to say that means Allah (SWT) is forcing them to go to the hellfire.

Al-wa3d wal wa3eed. Promise and threat

If he said something, then he has to fulfill it. If Allah swt says that for some sins if Allah swt says that there is Hell-Fire, then he has to punish people.  They do not distinguish between promises and threats. They say if you don’t fulfill the promise then it is unethical. But this is because they do not draw the distinction between a promise and a threat -- it is perfectly acceptable not to deliver on a threat. If someone dies without repenting from sin, they say that it is not allowed for Allah to not punish them. They say that person has to meet the punishment as described by Allah swt.

Manzila bayna Manzilatain

What happens to a Muslim who commits major sins? They said he is not a believer because he’s not meeting a requirement of belief. But he is not kaafir since he does not reject belief. They say he is a Muslim, but he will be in hellfire forever.

Al-Amr bil Ma3roof wal-nahy 3an il munkar (enjoining good and forbidding evil)

Footnote: People in human rights like Mu’tazilah belief, they want to bring it back. However the Mu’tazilah was one of the most oppressive group in history. They forced their beliefs on the people of their time. This was based on the principle of Munkar and Maroof. If the good comes about through believing in your heart, so they do not distinguish between the ruler and commonfolk -- so they are happy to overthrow the ruler if he’s committing some kind of thulm.

One thing we can see is that sometimes nice names like tawheed and Adl can contain a lot of falsehood so don’t be fooled by names without knowing the details of what they mean by that.

Since they divided into many groups, each school had some minor beliefs. Ar Razi describes these five pillars.

They give a lot of primacy to Aql or reasoning. They give preference to aql over revelation. To such an extreme that would use their reasoning and then determine which of the revelations they would agree and disagree.

During the time of Abbasid they opened a library called Dar al Hikmah. All of the works of Persians and Greeks were being translated here. But it is not obvious that this had an influence on them as much as the philosophers.

Mu’tazilah were very active in debate. They were very good in debating non muslims and other muslims. You can see it in some of the books of fiqh. You can see that the author has debated with Mu’tazilah  and that had an impact on his thinking, the Mu’tazilah had pounded their reasoning onto this author.

Mu’tazilah approach to Tafseer

Bulk of their work in Tafseer. When it comes to the hadith of the Prophet SAWS, it is much easy for the Mu’tazilah to reject it than other schools. If it contradicts their akl, they refuse it. Even if there is something wrong with their reasoning. You see it some times.

Mu’tazilah introduced this aspect that matters of aqeedah must be definitive, especially Qadi Abdul Jabbar.

They don’t believe in intercession. So for matters of aqeedah, they mandate the use of mutawaatir hadith. But in matters of fiqh we can use ahad hadith. This has propagated into other beliefs.

Coming to their tafseers in particular: they have one interesting view. They consider that as long a tafseer does not contradict their 5 pillars, then they say it is a valid tafseer. They leave the door open for almost any kind of interpretation. Another aspect that we see is that they are very good at using trying to use points in language to interpret the Qur’an in a way consistent with their beliefs.

Their beliefs eventually died out and remained with the Shia and the Zaidis. But it is confounding how this belief took hold, even though we have the Qur'an and Sunnah.

2011-06-13 Class Notes

Shaikh Jamaal sent out a handout which included a timeline of the various important figures of the Mu’tazilah madhab and whether they belonged to Basri or Baghdadi school.

Any heretical group is by definition will not be consistent with the message of the Qur'an, and as a consequence they have to come up with innovative ways to reconcile their innovation.

One way of doing this is to see if Arabic words or constructs can be retrofitted or changed to comply with their way of thinking. Arabic is a very rich language, with emphasis on roots, it is rooted in its roots. Some of the people who were best at doing it, meaning they did it often and they were very professional in their approach.

ibn Taymiyyah said that you have to be very careful in reading the Mutazilah books, because of their usage of Arabic language and he warned the readers, because they might be swayed by their reading.

Examples of abusing Arabic language to bolster their beliefs

Refuting that human beings can look upon or gaze at Allah swt in the hereafter

Surah Qayamah verses 22 and 23

ila nadeera

nadara ila means one thing, to look upon or gaze.

Jubba’i one of their leading scholar says, that the preposition is not the preposition that is expected, but it is min and changes the meaning of the verse that they are waiting in anticipation with respect to Allah swt.

Al Jubba’i’s tafseer does not assume that you know the premise, therefore he brings the premise that Allah cannot be seen, he convinces you and then says that the above verse does not mean what it states explicitly, and then it has to mean that you are waiting in anticipation or rajaa’ or hope. And he refutes the anthropomorphists.  He does it in a very clever way. Then he quotes lines of Arabic poetry in support of his arguments.

Refuting that Allah swt created enemies or dissenter for his prophet

Surah al Furqan verse 31

Allah swt says .... We have made enemy or dissenter for every prophet.....

Mutazilah cannot accept the idea that Allah swt is creating an enemy for his prophet. They say that he is always creating good and that he will not create any evil even if there is partial benefit from it.

Jubba’i quotes a line of poetry and then he says it does not mean that we have made, but it means that we have made it clear.

Quoting lines of poetry is interesting, they reject hadith very easily, but they do not know the origins of the poems, some might be authentic and some might now, they might be from some faasiq who is abusing the Arabic language. They continuously use poetry and you cannot give emphasis to it.

About seeing Allah swt, there are clear hadith of the prophet.

This approach is even seen today.

Refuting speech of Allah swt by proposing a different Qiraat of the Qur’an

Surah Nisa verse 164

One of the classic cases abusing Qiraat is Surah Nisa verse 164.

They don't believe in speech of Allah and hence they have issues with this verse, which says kalaamul Allahu Musa taklimah, which means Allah spoke directly to Musa.

One of the benefits of the way the verse is revealed rules out the figurative understanding because of the cognitive accusative case of the verse. So they cannot use a figurative understanding of the verse.

Mutazilah read this verse differently. And the way they read it, they change dhamma to a fatha, they are changing the subject of the sentence, and now the meaning is that Moses spoke to Allah directly. By doing this change, they get the meaning that they want.

This reading of the verse to Mutazilah. Tafseer ibn Katheer, says that this reading is from the Mutazilah. It gives the impression that the Mutazilah came up with this reading and on top of that there is also a story which is quoted by ibn Katheer. THere was a shaikh whose name was Abu Ayyash who says that no one says that except the Mutazilah, and he gives chain going

Is there any problem when you change it to fatha, kaalamul Allah ha Musa taklimah?

Can you point any issues that arise because of this change?

We have verse in Qur'an in which Musa says let me see you Allah.....

Abu Umar al Alah, who is one of the seven qurah, a major qurah, and they asked him to change it from dhamma to fatha. And then he responded what will you do to the verse that says we gave preference to some prophets and we spoke to them, what would you do to this verse.

Some injustice is being done by changing dhamma to fatha.

If you go to Zamakshari’s tafseer, he says about the Qiraat, that it originates from Yahya and ... who are the early Qurah. These qurah are not Mu’tazilah. To refute this argument, their Qurah are considered shaadh. All of the references point to these two sources who were not Mu’tazilah and they read it this way, the Qurah made a mistake, even though they were trustworthy.

Shaikh Jamaal is saying that it is not fair to say that the origins of the qiraat are the Mu’tazilah, they are the two sources listed above.

Zamakshari then continues and quotes some of the more extreme Mu’tazilah, and says that they tried to change kalaam to kalm which means pain, the meaning of which is that Allah swt tried to cause harm to Musa because they could not change the accusative case of the ayat. And he rejects this extreme view.

Abusing Taweel

One of the main things that Mu’tazilah do is to perform Taweel. When a verse does not reconcile with their way of thinking, then they make taweel.

Before you perform taweel you have to ask, is there a need for taweel?

And after you perform taweel, you have to ask is the interpretation justified?

Of course they say yes to both of them.

Mutazilah give preference to Akl which is human reasoning.

Examples of  Taweel

Refuting seeking refuge from Jinn or Shaytan

Na’dam (one of the Mutazilah scholars, not listed on the handout) denies the existence of jinn completely. Some of the others like Zamakshari say that jinn exists but they have no influence on the human beings. As a consequence, they reject a number of hadith and Surah An Nass. When we seek refuge from something, there is a reason for seeking refuge. If the thing cannot have any effect or harm upon us, then there is no reason to seek refuge.

Even audhu billa hi shaytan, they have problems with it, because they know that Shaytan is from the jinn. And again applying the same logic, the shaytan cannot have any influence on human beings.

In their writings, you will never see a Mu’tazilah scholar who says that my understanding is wrong because of the pre-ponderance of evidence, you see exactly the opposite.

As is the case now, even then, the hadith was an easier target for the Mutazilah to attack.

Many of the ulema have warned us about it. Al Ashari has the harshest words for them. He spent 30 years studying with Jubba’i and this could have had an effect on him. Because he must have realized that this person taught him incorrect beliefs for 30 years. In his statement, he says that there is nothing correct and there is all misguidance, and it sounds a bit like exaggeration.

ibn Taymiyyah says that they start with their aqeedah and then force their opinion on the Qur'an. And he says some of them are very good in Arabic language, specifically Zamakshari, and warns us about their cleverness of the Arabic language.

ibn Qayyam says their pages are filled with darkness and bring evil. Every one should realize that one of the major sources of evil is when hawa or desires take precedence over the wahi.

Other than Ashari, the critiques are very good, he is bit harsh.

We will have two more sessions on Mu’tazilah and then move on to Shia beliefs.

2011-06-20 Class Notes

We form definitive opinions about matters and ignore that there were some difference of opinions on those matters. So when you come across the writing of people of bidah, this forces you to question your ingrained beliefs, or reexamine your perspectives, and if your beliefs were correct then they are refortified, but if you have some incorrect understandings, then you can fix them.

If you only read the good works, then you assume everything is good and true, but there might be ....  For example, when you read the qiraat, kalmullah instead of kalaamullah, this qiraat did not orginate with Mutazilah, but with others.

Tafseer of Qaadi Abduljabbar

Qaadi Abduljabbar (died 415 hijri, from Basri school) wrote the encyclopedias of the mu’tazilah. He wrote tanzih al-qur’aan ‘an al-mata’in (تنزيه القرآن عن المطاعن) -- freeing the Qur’aan from the accusations. He was from the Shafi’i madhab (unlike most mu’tazilah who were Hanafi). The Abbasids were very pro-Shia in the sense that they tried to use the feelings towards the Prophet (SAWS) and they were anti-Shia in the sense that many “real” Shi’a who questioned their claim of loving the Prophet (SAWS). Mutazilah were very pro-Shia.

It is not a complete tafseer, his intention was to explain the mutashabih (unclear) verses and muhkam (clear) verses. His tafseers explains those verses only. And when he says that people who have mistaken understanding of the verses, he is attacking the ahl al Sunnah. In his eyes, no one distorted the deen as much as ahl as sunnah.

In his introduction to the tafseer, he wrote that “No one will benefit from the book of Allah until he stops and reflects upon its meanings, and distinguishes between the muhkam and mutashabih verses. Many people go astray because of the mutashabih verses. Some people, for example when Allah says sabbaha lillahi … todo -- put in verse.

For the verse from the Qur'an, Everything in the world glorifies Allah swt, he says that if they think that everything is making tasbeeh of Allah swt. And he said that if anybody has beliefs like that, he is not taking the full benefit from what he is reading.

In Surah Araf verse 178, Allah swt says in this verse, whoever Allah guides

Sahih International

Whoever Allah guides - he is the [rightly] guided; and whoever He sends astray - it is those who are the losers.

What would be the issue for the Mutazilah?

This verse gives the impression that Allah swt is guiding people and leading them astray, why would they have problem with it?

Because of their idea of free will to an extreme, they believe that Allah swt has no role to play in the world, the human beings are creators of their own destiny. So they have an answer for this verse. They say, people choose their own world, and Allah swt does not control or make any changes in this world at all. Shaikh is saying, I don’t understand how can they read surah Faitha, where we ask for guidance. They say the guidance is for the hereafter, that Allah swt would guide you to Jannah. And when you choose kufr, Allah swt would guide you to hellfire. Alll of these verse about guidance is for the hereafter and not for this world.

In another verse, whoever Allah swt misguides, there will be no guide for him. They say that in the hereafter there will be no guide for them.

He does not have tafseer for Surah Fatiha, so if Allah swt is not guiding us in this world, then why are we repeating this dua.

Surah Hajj verse 16:

Sahih International

And thus have We sent the Qur'an down as verses of clear evidence and because Allah guides whom He intends.

He says Allah swt simply burdens somebody with the responsible for the deen, or he would guide them for their reward because of their obedience.

When you read some of these things, the distortion is completely at odds with the wordings of the verse. There is another lesson that we can learn from it, we should not be lackadaisical when we have to learn and understand the Qur’an, really study the Qur’an, study the hadeeth, and then it would be difficult to get something out of the reading that really does not belong there. If we have never really gone to the Qur'an and not really studied it, if we are superficial about our reading, then only we are to be blamed.

Allah swt says in the Qur'an, Surah Al Qiyaamah verses 22 and 23,

Sahih International

[Some] faces, that Day, will be radiant,

Sahih International

Looking at their Lord.

Some faces that day will be radiant, and then the next part is translated as

Sahih International - looking at their Lord.

Yusuf Ali - looking toward their Lord

another translation - to look forward to receiving mercy from their Lord

another translation - toward their Lord

another translation - upto their Sustainer

Is that a correct interpretation of the verse?

The Mu’tazilah say that we cannot see Allah swt in the hereafter, Qaadi Abdul Jabbar has written quite a bit on this verse. His argument is 4-5 major points. And Shaikh wants us to respond to those points

The word nadira comes from the word na da ra, means faces will be bright and happy. And the second verse ends with Nathira. So how would you translate Nathira.

Qadi Abdul Jabbar says no, it does not mean looking at their lord. And he presents 4 major point

1. Preposition has been changed

He says the anthropomorphists, al mutashabeeheen, the people who give human attributes to Allah swt, and he means Ahl al Sunnah:  he says that the word Nathira when connected to the face, the word used is “ila” he says that the preposition are interchangeable, which does indeed occur in Arabic language, he says nathira means to expect and to wait for.

2. They are expecting or waiting or seeing their divine reward

He says that this understanding is been related by ibn Abbas, Ali and Mujaahid. But unfortunately he does not give proof of this.

And then he says that because the people believed in anthropomorphism, and because of it they understood this to mean that they will be able to see Allah

5. Jism

He says if Allah swt had Jism, then we will be able to see it, touch it. And he says that Allah swt does not have jizm or body

Classroom discussion of the above verse

The ultimate goal in studying a verse of the Qur'an, is to know honestly what that verse means. It could be the case that the verse .... nathira has nothing to do with seeing Allah swt. So we should not fall into our preconceived notions of it either.

Student response: Muslim records a narration from Suhayb that the Prophet said, (When the people of Paradise enter the Paradise, Allah will say, `Do you want me to give you anything extra' They will say, `Haven't you whitened our faces Haven't you entered us into Paradise and saved us from the Fire' Then He will remove the veil and they will not be given anything more beloved to them than looking at their Lord, and that will be the extra (Ziyadah).)

Sheikh responds to it and points out the weakness of the argument: That hadith is explanation of another verse from the Qur'an. That you get additional rewards.Similarly when the verse says that prophet does not talk out of his desire, here the verse is talking specifically about the when prophet is conveying the Qur'an and not else where.


Shaikh responds: Where is he quoting ibn Abbas from? We know that he quotes Ali from shia sources. However he does not give his sources and that weakens his argument.


Shaikh responds: He says that the preposition can be changed, so I am changing it.  And it is based on his premise that Allah swt cannot be seen and hence he has to change it.


Shaikh responds; Qadi says that the only way we can see somebody, if it has a body, and he argues that since Allah swt does not have a body, he cannot be seen.

Tafseer Tabari response to the above tafseer of the verse by Qadi Abdul Jabbar

There is a difference of opinion about the interpretation of nathira (looking at their lord). Some say it means that they are looking at their lord and he gives lots of isnaad. Here he quotes Ikrimaah, where he says .... looking with a vision. Then he quotes Hasan al Basri who says that they are looking at their creator. Then he quotes .......    he is saying that they are looking towards Allah swt but they cannot see the entire greatness of Allah swt.

Then he says, that others say, that they are waiting in expectations of their lord. Which is the Mutazilah interpretation. And he quotes it to Mujahid. And he also quotes it from Abu Saleh (tabieen or taba tabieen).

After quoting others, then Tabari says that the stronger of the two views is what we have from Hasan and Ikrimah. that they will be looking towards their Lord, and he quotes a hadith from the Prophet, wherein the prophet recited this verse and then he said that the people will look at their lord day and night. The chain of that hadith is daif jiddan (very weak).

Ibn Katheer’s tafseer of the same verse

Ibn Katheer says that they will see Allah with their eyes. And he quotes .....   The believers seeing Allah swt with their eyes is from many sources and it is mutawatir, and then he quotes hadith from ... .... ... and Ali. And he says that if he had time, he would have quoted from many other sources. And then he says that on this point, all of the .... are agreed upon.

He has gone from the verse to the reports about seeing Allah swt and not about the meaning of the verse. At this point, no reader can deny that believer will see their Lord.  

And then he continues, that some people make taweel of this verse, that they will have expectations of the Lord and he quotes it from Mujahid and Abu Saalih. And he says that interpretation is far fetched.

He says that evil doers will be veiled from Allah swt, that means the believers will be able to see their lord.

And finally he quotes Hasan al Basri and says that they will see their Lord.

So the question still remains, what exactly does the verse nathira mean? We know that we will see Allah swt and it is undeniable, but what is the meaning of this verse

Mujaheed was student of Ibn Abbas, he wrote the first tafseer. But he had some beliefs that were off the wall. He has made a fundamental Arabic mistake. And it is shocking how he made this mistake.

One of the benefits of learning Arabic from the Western way which is not available to the ones who learn Arabic natively, is that the English speakers are told to emphasize all of  the derived forms of the word when you learn it from English books. Whereas in Arabic grammar books, they emphasize the ground form or the first form.

This word should not be nathira (ناظرة), it would be muntathira (منتظرة).

Here he is changing both the word and the preposition. Therefore Mujaheed’s argument falls apart.

After you read the Ahl al Bidah tafseer, now you know what is said about this verse, and it has fortified your knowledge and understanding of the verse.

As another exercise you can study the verse .......

2011-06-27 Class Notes

Q for Shaikh Jamaal: How do the Mu’tazilah answer the Surah Fath verse 5 which says that Allah swt will expiate the sins of the believing men and women since they believe that believing sinners will be in limbo? And since the Mu’tazilah bid’ah originated with the question of sin, was this verse presented as evidence for their incorrect understanding of the status of sinners?

Muhsin Khan

That He may admit the believing men and the believing women to Gardens under which rivers flow (i.e. Paradise), to abide therein forever, and to expiate from them their sins, and that is with Allah, a supreme success,

A: The Mu’tazilah believe in taubah. It is not the case that once you do the act, then you are in the hellfire. Some of them even believe in the intercession of the prophet. Even the Khawarij also believe in Taubah.

Zamakshari’s Tafseer

Shaikh Jamaal wants to know from us, what we think of this tafseer. There are some dissertations on this tafseer. Yakov Malkiel (July 22, 1914–April 24, 1998) was an adviser for one of the dissertations, he was from UC Berkeley and shaikh has some interesting anecdotes about it, which he might discuss outside of the class.

Abu Qasim al Zamakshari (1074 - 1170 CE) (Hanafi)

He is known as Jarr ul Allah (neighbor of Allah). He moved from his hometown in Afghanistan to Makkah, hence this name.

Books written by Zamakshari

Book on Grammar called Mufassar. Some book on grammar ..... that students use today is based on this book.

Asaas al Balaagha (eloquent speech) a two volume book

Al Far.... al gharib al hadith it is a collection of unusual or strange words from the hadith

Minhaj fil usool al deen (a small book)

He is most well known for his tafseer.

The title of his book is very long and Shaikh wrote it on the board..... The Unveiling of the truths of the hidden things of the revelation and the choicest statements concerning the aspects of interpretation.

Based on the title, modesty was not his strong point. This tafseer had a strong influence on the shia tafseer. Baydawi’s tafseer is an abridgement of this tafseer.

Someone said, this tafseer is second only to Tabari’s in influence.  Again this is a very strong statement, there might be some truth to it. Because he began the trend to analyze the Quran based on style, based on balaaghah. Anybody who came after him relied on Zamakshari.

Theoretically this is problematic, because his aqeedah has an influence on this balaaghah also. The sahabah’s aqeedah was very different than the Mu’tazilah aqeedah. And this is the reason why we have to be careful of Zamakshari’s work.

Every modern published work of Zamakshari, also has a separate work, called Al Intisaaf (justice) written by Ibn Al Munayar who tries to correct the Mu’tazilah aspect of the work.

Zamakshari was very proud to be a Mu’tazilah, he asked people to announce that he was a Mu’tazilah. Which is true for quite a few Mu’tazilah scholars.

Every page has annotations by Al Munayar. However Al Munayar was an Ashari madhab, so you can see that influence in his annotations. He is forcing his view on the meaning of the verse. On the whole,Al Munayar is very fair.

Sometimes Zamakshari used very strong words towards the Prophet and Al Munayar says that he should not have said that.

The orientalists are very happy with the work of Zamakshari.

Zamakshari was not very professional when he quoted hadith and the way he quoted the hadith is very strange, he says it is narrated and does not state the chain and seems to imply that he does not believe the hadith.  He only quotes from Sahih Muslim, even though Bukhari was written by then.

Zaylai who was Hanafi, wrote the takhreej of the hadith in Zamakshari’s tafseer. Ibn Hajr took Zaylahi’s work and abridged it.

Every edition of Al-Kashaaf (Zamakshari’s tafseer) is published with Munayar’s commentary and the Ibn Hajr’s takhreej of the hadith. Even though Al-Kashaaf book is Mu’tazilah, there are protections for the people because of the annotations of Ibn Al Munayar and takhreej of ibn Hajr.

Dissertation on ibn Al Munayar’s work, which is a critique of the critque of Zamakhshari

Zamakshari was a specialist in the Arabic language. His fiqh was Hanafi. His Mu’tazilah beliefs are neither Basri or Baghdadi, he took from both of them. His grammar was influenced by the prominent Basri school. He was staunch in the following of the Basri school of grammar. This has influence in his tafseer.

He highlighted the Qiraat. His tafseer is based on qiraat of Abu Amr al Basri. Even during the time of Zamakshari the other  tafseer are based on the Hafs qiraat. Zamakshari rejected some narrations that are strong that did not agree with his Basri qiraat.

Basrah and Qufa are the two prominent schools of grammar.  When they disagreed with each other and do not take from each other’s qiraat.  Zamakshari rejects some of the Basri qiraat.

A number of prominent schools or scholars commented or warned us about Zamakshari’s work. One of them is Taqiuddin Sukki, he wrote a small pamphlet, called sabab al inqi.... reasons for not reading kashaaf.

Taqiuddin highlights how Zamakshari is dismissive about the prophet and he states I cannot read any more of his work, because of his language about the prophet, who is the best of the Allah’s servant.

Orientalists tries to make a point that besides Dhahabi or Hajr, nobody else has problems with Zamakshari’s tafseer. This is not true. Shaikh Jamaal is using the same references as a contemporary of Dhahabi, and it shows that there were many scholars who recognized the works of Zamakshari as Mutazilah and they warned us about it. So it does not match the reality of the orientalists.

Methodology of Zamakshari’s work

Do not expect to find crazy stuff in it. It still discusses the Qur’an and they are not dismissing the entire Qur’an. He is using some principles, he is using language, grammar, qiraat, to analyze the Quran. He is also using other tafseers such as ibn Abbas and Mujahid, he also quotes a number of other Mu’tazilii tafseers that came before him. The only hadith book that he mentions is Sahih Muslim.  One of the good points of his tafseer is that he completely avoids the Israleiyaat.

He makes it very clear that aql or human reasoning takes precedence over what has been revealed or passed down. He does admit the fact, that aql by itself can recognize what is good and what is bad. Ashari’s dispute it and they say nothing is good or bad unless Allah swt tell us about it. In some of Zamakshari’s tafseer he seems to agree that the details of the law have to come from Allah swt. He says that the understanding of the text is based on aql or human reasoning.

His approach to balaaghah can be seen in Surah Baqarah, Alif Laam Mim, Hudaam..... these words are very powerful, there are no conjunctions between them. The sahabah recognized it, but they did not mention it any where. Gradually as we lost the eloquence of the Arabic language, you could loose the miraclous aspect of the language. Zamakshari says that we should analyze the Qur’an based on the eloquence of the language. He points out that the first three phrases of two words each (dzalikal kitaab, la raybafeeh, hudalin muttaqeen) are sentences in themselves, and they build upon each others, there are no conjunctions between it, and yet build upon each other.  His in depth knowledge of balaaghah is obvious from the beginning.

We discussed huzum al nathira, which we discussed last time. Z also discusses it much better than Qadi... but he comes to the same conclusio.

He says Qur’an is pure imagination. It is one thing to say some stories are parables, but he says it is pure imagination and he is dismissive of the Quran when he does that.

Al-Imraan verse 36.

Sahih International

But when she delivered her, she said, "My Lord, I have delivered a female." And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, "And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah ]."

Mother of Mary recognizes that she give birth to a girl and made dua that she seeks refuge from Shaitan for Mariam and her offsprings.

Zamakshari says that Allah alone knows whether the hadith is sahih. And then he goes on to say that this is pure interpretation even though the verse is very clear. They have problem what their human reasoning cannot comprehend. They cannot fathom that shaytan could have influence, or there are seven heavens or Allah swt has a kursi. Since their aql cannot comprehend it, they say that it is pure imagination. This is similar to the rabbinical judaism. You cannot fathom text coming from Allah swt. And they say the revelation cannot posssibly mean what it says and they have to some how handle it.

Commentary of Zamakshari on Ayatul Kursi

In the last session we discussed a few tafseers on the same verse. And that is the reason why Shaikh wants to present it to us, because we have familiarity with it.

Zamakshari begins with al Hayy, it is ever enduring and ..... does not have access..... In the terminology of theologians, it somebody who truly has power. And then he says about al Qayyum ......  All of this is okay.

Then he discusses sinaa or slumber that which precedes sleep, then he quotes some poetry. He says that if you sleep that you cannot be watchful or Qayyum. Then he quotes the narration of Musa, which is not authentic, it is about his holding a glass.


Bayna aidi him,  he says it him here refers to what is in the heavens and earth....

Then he comes to kursi, what do you expect him to say about it?

He says there are four possible meanings. He says kursi is what is sat upon, and then he says there are four meanings:

1. It is linguistic imagery, it is mastery of the status of Allah swt  and representation of it. There is no chair. (This is also true about some modern theologians who say that heaven and hell are some type of imagery and do not really exist. Some modern tafseer including Abdulllah Yusuf Ali’s 1st edition......)

2. It means ilm

3. It means his dominion.

4. What has been reported which he does not like and mentions it last. He mentions the hadith of the relation of kursi to the arsh and that it lies in front of it. He simply mentions it.

There is another place in the Quran where kursi is mentioned  and here Zamakshari says that the kursi was created before the heavens and earth contradicting his opinion here. Shiekh did not give the details as he did not have the time to dig it out.

He does not actually refute the 4th opinion and does not say what is his opinion.

He mentions that there are no conjunctions between the verses. The conjunctions would disrupt the flow.

Then he discusses the importance of Ayatul Kursi. And he brings a narration that is not authentic.

He says that this verse is important because of the same reason as Surah Ikhlaas, because it describes Allah swt and there is no better mentioning than mentioning Allah swt. The best knowledge is knowledge of Allah swt and his remembrance.  And he says that we (meaning Mutazilah) have the best understanding of Allah swt  and do not let the detractors take it away from us.

Baydawi sees benefit in this work and takes from it. His tafseer is not just an abridgement, but he adds to it.

Of course the big problems are people highlight the taweel or reinterpretation done by Zamakshari and then take this approach and apply it to fiqh issues too. And this expansion of reinterpretation is going on nowadays.

Zamakshari was the last of the Sunni Mutazilah. After him it was the Shias who took the Mutazilah approach.

2011-07-04 Class Notes

Shia Tafseer

When you look at the tafseer of the Mu’tazilah and the examples that we went over, there was not completely over the wall or weird, would you agree? Mu’tazilah were rational in approach.

Now we are entering a completely new realm. Zamakshari was the last of the Mu’tazilah scholars, after that you find the Mu’tazilah beliefs in Shia and Zaidis. Shias have an esoteric approach to the Quran.

History of the Shia

There are four main points with respect to tafseer and shia beliefs and they are

1. Whether they believe in Qur’an?

2. Whether they need the Qur’an?

3. What is their theory of tafseer?

4. What is actually contained in some of their tafseers?

Definition of Shia or Who are the Shia?

They are known for reverence to Ali more than any other Sahaba.

What do we mean by Shia in general is those who have some reverence towards Ali and they prefer him over rest of sahaba and in general they believe that he should have been khalifa after Prophet (saws).

Surah Shu’ara verse 26:214: Warn your closest family.

They say it is a warning to the family of the prophet and they say the family of the prophet had a special distinction.

They also quote the hadith, who ever I am leader for then Ali is also their leader and then he made dua that I support whoever supports him and I oppose them whoever oppose him

They give this evidence for the reverence of Ali.

When it comes to sahaba, they only have respect for four or consider only the four to be the true sahaba not including the family of the prophet, which they consider to be given

1. Al Miqdad bin Aswad

2. Salman al Farsi

3. Abu Dharr al Gharari

4. Ammar bin Yasir

Some of them say that Shia became after the death of the prophet, when conflict arose as to who should be the khalifa. They say at that time some sahaba were against what happened. And they restrict true Islam to the few sahaba.

Some say it began during the time of Uthman. This is completely false, because Ali was on the side of Uthman. There is not much basis for it.

These ideas contributed to the shias and they later claimed it. But to claim that it occurred earlier, there is no basis for it. There is report Ali made bayah (pledge allegiance) to Abu bakr and came back after the death of Fatima and did bayah again to Abu Bakr. So these claims are completely unfounded.

Abdullah ibn Sabah

There were some people were rebelling against Uthman and there was a movement against Uthman. Something appeared that was more than political or some injustice. It was rise of some kind of beliefs and the main instigator was Abdullah ibn Sabah, he was the first to raise Ali to supernatural state.

None of the claims that he had about Ali, he did not quote as the statements of the prophet. He made outrageous claims and had followers but he did not claim them to be statements of the prophet. As the fabrication of the hadeeth started much later after the death of Uthman. If he had forged hadeeth, then he would have been castigated as a liar and rejected by the sahaba. He just made outrageous statements based on his rational thinking. He said that if Isa is going to return, then Muhammad has more right to return. This is his rational argument. That is the basis of belief called as Raja3a. . He was the first one to came up with the belief called raja3a. He was a jewish person from Yemen who converted to Islam.

There are many reformists in Shia religion, who are trying to clean up, they claim that Abdullah ibn Sabah didnt even exist and Orientalists make a big deal of it.

Their own leading authorities, such as al Kummi, who was a companion of Hasan al Askari who was the 12th Imam of Shia, he had a leading status and he has a tafseer of Quran. In his book, al muqalat ....., he says that Abdullah ibn Sabah existed and he rejected Abu Bakr and Uthman, and supported Ali. So Abdullah ibn Sabah was a true figure and he introduced new strange beliefs. It was from him that the Shia begin to develop.

Shia’at Ali

Shia’at Ali means the party of Ali.  The word Shia’at Ali did not have a negative connotation. We know there were many disputes among Ali and Muwayiah at that time if you says you are shia’at Ali, It is just that you are supporting Ali and that you are following his authority. However when the new beliefs started to appear, then the new sect appeared and they were called Al Rafidah or rejectionists, who had strange beliefs. They reject Abu Bakr and Umar in particular.

Shia are broken into major categories of belief. Some scholars who studies sects break them into five groups, however three groups is correct, because some of the sects disappeared or did not take off like kaisaniyyah. Kaisan was the slave of Ali.

Three important Shia Groups

They broke into three main groups, Zaidiyah, Imamiyah and Al Gullat.


Shia of Yemen, there are other shias in Yemen, but they are the most prominent, they are the shia that are the closest to Ahl al Sunnah, they do not curse Abu Bakr and Umar, they do not claim other sahaba as misguided. They believe Ali to be the most deserving of Khalifa. They say that it is permissible to have khalifa who are less deservering, such as Abu Bakr and Uthman. Their founder’s name is zaid bin Ali who was descendents of Ali. San3aani author of Subul as-salam and As-shawkani wrote nael al-autaar, they came from zaidi background. They kept to Mutazilah beliefs and mild shia beliefs.

Imamiyah or Twelvers or Zafiris

There are also known as twelvers or Zafiris. They are the most prominent group, such as the shia of Iran, Saudi Arabia. We will concentrate on this group.

Al Gullat

They are the extremist. The one that is most well known are Ismailies, Aga Khanis, Alawites (ruling party of Syria). Whenever they hear thunder, they say that it is Ali saying Salaam and they return the salaam back to him.

Disappearance of the term Rafidah

The word Rafidah is gone, because it was a negative term. Whoever did this was very smart, because they got rid of the negative connotation. Now they are in general referred as Shia but if you look at their books you still see the belief of rafidah in there.

Common beliefs of the Shias

Historically they become much more mild. They make their Imams supernatural or divine status. Originally, If you look historically, their teaching were very strict, they said that you can only know God through the Imam and you cannot have any other approach to knowing God. Only who follow the imam go to jannah and rest are in hell fire. When their Imam was no longer there, then they opened the door to Usool al Fiqh and reasoning.

1. Imaamah / Leader of the community both spiritually, politically and all dominant leadership.

This is not a question of choice by people, it is appointed by Allah swt. They say that you have to believe in the Imaamah. Imaamah is not a matter of public welfare, left to choice

2. Imam must appoint his successor.

Since it is divine position and they are receiving guidance from Allah swt, so he must appoint his successor and they say it started with the Prophet. They say it is impossible for the prophet to not have appoiinted his successor. It is close to the catholic belief only difference is that they do not have the family line that the shias have.

3. The Prophets and Imams are protected from committing any errors. (Edit: It is called infallibility by the catholics for the Pope.)  

It they are getting living revelation, then whatever the Imam says should be the final authority and you do not have to consult any books, thus they don’t need Qur’an. They say that whatever the Imam says goes above the Qur’an and Sunnah. Since their Imam is alive, and what they are saying is relevant for their time now. They might abrogate what Prophet (saw) said. They say it is correct for the Shia of today and hence their higher authority.

4. Concept of Al Wala, Al Bara, Al Tuqiyah

Support those who follow the imam and go against who go against imam. Since they are minority you don't need to expose your belief to outside world which is Tuqiyah.

To save you lives you can do Tuqiyah, where in you hide what you actually believe, basically lie. This is based on statement of .....  and for them it is important because they were a minority and they had to resort to it to protect their lives.

According to them, the only difference between Prophets and Imam is that both of them receive revelation, but the Imams cannot see the angels, where as Prophets do see the angels while recieving the relvelation.

5.  Belief in Al-Rajah

Some scholars say that all Shias follow rajaa but the Zaidees do not believe it. It is the belief that the people are brought back to life. Shaikh al Mufeed who was their early scholar and founding father, he was also a scholar of Sufi belief. He said that many people would be brought back to life, to receive the rights that were taken away from them by the Ahl al Sunnah. There is a book called Haqqul Yaqeen written by Majlisi, (shaikh is confounded by some of their stories), Muhammed Al baqeer says that when the Imam will come back, he will revive Ayesha and give her proper punishment. Another of a story written by Majlisi, Jafar al Sadiq says that when Mahdi or they call him Qayam descends to  Jerusalem with his family, he will make peace treaty with Jews and Christians and then go and fight with Muslims who opposed to believe in Imams.

Distortion or Tahreef of the Qur’an

They say that Quran has been distorted. And looking at the above beliefs you can see why they say the Quran is distored, because none of their beliefs are mentioned in the Quran. So they are in a situation where your founding ideology is not in the Quran, then you have a basic problem and the only way around it is to say that Quran is distorted, and they are not complete.

Is this belief common across all of the Shias, that the Quran is distored? What about the twelvers, do they believe in tahreef of the Quran?

Among the Iranian Shias, they are not given too much knowledge of their deen. A lot of their major works are written in Arabic and not Farsi, because their original scholars all wrote in Arabic. Tahreef is a dominant view among the twelvers.

One contemporary author wrote, that among the scholars of the past, everybody said that Quran is distorted, except for four, Saddooq, al Murtada al Sharif, At Toosi, and Abu Ali al Tabarsi.  Among the contemporary authors, they do not believe that the Quran is distorted and they claim that it is never the belief of the Shia. According to the Shaikh, this is a distortion of a distortion. If they want to reform it, they have to do it correctly and not distort their beliefs.

This author believed the Qur’an was distorted and then goes into the writing of the four mentioned above, he shows that they believed it too. Tabarsi had the best tafseer among the shia and he had that belief too, it is an interesting tafseer. His tafseer is best in the point of view of tafseer not in the point of shia.

If you believe that Quran has been distorted, then you can say that their founding beliefs are there in the Quran and that they have been removed. If they find anything in Quran which goes against their belief that they will say that quran is distorted.

The Zaidees also believe in the twelve Imams. One of their Imams had a son named Ismail and he was supposed to be the next Imam. However he was a drunkard and people did not accept him. So the line of Imams shifted. But the Ismailies said no, he is still the next Imam, and they say that the outward appearances do not matter and he is still pious. They says what is you see is not what you get.

Zaid bin Ali who was the founder of Zaidis was political reformer who went against the Ummayad.

2011-07-30 Class Notes

Four fundamental issues in Shia belief

Today we will continue our discussion of the tafseer of the Shia.  When it comes to the Shia and the Qur’an, there are four fundamental questions that need to be answered.  We touched upon a couple of them last week; whether or not they actually believe in the Qur’an and the concept of tahreef.  

Rely on Imams more than the Qur’an and Sunnah

Most of their books of tafseer accept the idea that some portions of the Revelation from Allah swt are not captured in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. In some reports they state that a large number of revealed verses are not in the Qur’an.  Since they have their Imams that came after the time of the Qur’an, they did not really need to rely on the Qur’an.  

Over the last few centuries, they had to develop a new theory or revivalist movement as they have not had an Imamah for some time.  They were forced to develop some tafseer of the Qur’an and some rational sciences with respect to the deen in the absence of their chain of Imamah.

Today, we will discuss their theory of tafseer and how they approach tafseer.  Like how we discussed with the mu’tazilah, the question comes up of asbaab an nuzool and Israeli’at.  They definitely have a unique approach to tafseer and that is what we will be focusing on.

There were many issues that came up after the death of the Prophet saas and after the abscense or occultation of their Imamah that required this change to take place.  Their Imams have effectively come to an end and now they have to go back to the texts and evidence to derive rulings.

Redefinition of the word hadeeth

When we use the word hadith in this class, it has a different meaning.  What do the Shia mean when they say hadith?  They mean any narration from the Prophet saas and any of their Twelve Imams (Edit: Which means they exclude the statements of other sahaba).  

Ultimate source of tafseer is the statement of their Imams

One of the things we see when we talk about sources of tafseer with respect to the Shia, the number one source of tafseer are the statements of the Imams.  The Imams according to the Shia had a direct connection to Allah swt and Allah swt was bestowing that information on the Imams.  They are the intermediaries between us (the human beings) and Allah swt,  We will see many commonalities between the Shia and the Jews and Christians.

Back to the tafseer of the Imams, what they say is taken as the truth and what they say cannot be judged.  When something comes from the Prophet saas, for Ahl Sunnah we do not question this.  Similarly for the Shia and their Imams.  

They equate their Imams to the role of the prophet

If the foundations of their beliefs is true, then what they are doing is logical.  When you get into debates with the Shia, you have to be careful with how you bring down their ideology.  If you attack them by saying they believe in whatever their Imam says about the Qur’an, to them you are also denying the same thing for the Prophet saas; for them, if the Prophet saas can do this then they believe that their Imams can do the same.  You have to go back to the fact that their Imams are not receiving revelation and they are not infallable.

Shia Tafseer bin Mathoor

The Shia also has what is known as the tafseer bin mathoor (tafseer based on reports).  Those reports in our views are reports from the Sahabah and the Tabi’ien.  A number of their tafseers can be classified like our classification of tafseer based on reports.

They actually have some books of tafseer that are very close to As-Suyooti’s work.  His work is nothing but hadith of the Prophet saas explaining verses of the Qur’an and he does not offer any further information, none of his personal contributions or ijtihad.  There are books of this nature amongst the Shia.

Noor al Thakalayn - Light of the Two Heavy Things

One of them is called Noor al Thakalayn (Light of the Two Heavy things) written by Abdu Ali al Huwazy, the servant of Ali. By two heavy things, they imply the Quran and the family of the Prophet saws.

Al Burhan al Baharani

There is another one called Burhan by al Baharani which is also tafseer bil Mathoor.

These are purely tafseer bin mathoor.  There are others that have the same characteristics.  In their books, there is nothing or very little from the companions of the Prophet saas.  They are very explicit that the companions of the Prophet saas are not acceptable narrators.  

Example of statement from the book about the sahaba

They have books, one by Abdullah ibn Malkani, that show almost every companion as da’if.  They say that the aamma (common people) dont know about it and that the following sahaba. For example, they say that Abdullah ibn ... and other sahabas are daif and it goes on like that,

It’s not very common in their books of tafseer to find narrations from the Sahabah, even narrations from the Prophet saas are not that common; they are not most essential.  To the Shia, the Prophet saas is one of thirteen (Imams ????).  

Statistical break-down of the hadeeth from the Shia literature

If you look at their hadith of tafseer nature, they have about 14,000 hadith in the most important and comprehensive works, including the two mentioned by the sheikh above.  If you take the percentage of who those narrations come from, we have the following listed:

1.) Imam Jafar al-Saadiq - 47 % of their hadith come from this source

2.) The Prophet saas - Only 13.5% are attributed to him

3.) Baqir (the fifth Imam) - 13%

4.) Ali ibn Abi Thaalib - 7%

.... Shaikh did not give the complete list.... that was not the intent... it was supposed to be a subset for illustrative purposes...

9.) Ibn Abbas - 1% (Of course, they can’t be completely anti-Ibn Abbas since he is part of the Prophet’s saas’s family.)

10.) The companions of their Imams - 6%

11.) Unknown persons - 4.5%

Prominent Role of Jafar al-Saadiq

This shows that Jafar Saadiq played a central role in these hadith narrations.  The sheikh would like to separate Jafar Saadiq from the real Jafar Saadiq also known as Abu Abdullah.  They also have a lot of narrations from Jabar al Ja’oufi. If you see Jabar al ja’oufi 3n Abu Abdullah means Jafar Saadiq. In their own books, they declare him and describe him as a liar.  You can even find reports from Jabar Ja’oufi  calling Jafar as-saadiq a liar.  

They explain this by tuqi’a, Jabar Ja’oufi was protecting Jafar Saadiq by calling him a liar. He was practicing tuqiya (which means that under duress he said lies to protect somebody or himself)

Like debating with Christians, it is very difficult to debate with the Shia.  At many points, logic is thrown out the door. This point was made in reference to the status of Jafar as a liar and their defense of him by using tuqiya.

Akhbari Movement

In 11 hijri, there was something amongst the Shia called the Akhbari movement.  It was kind of like the Shia Salafi movement.  The Shia’s beliefs were infiltrated by the Mu’atazilah and the Sufi.  It was a time of returning to their texts.  These two Shia authors / scholars, al Huwazy (died somewhere close to 1107 Hijri too) and Al Bahrani (died in 1107 Hijri), compiled works of tafseer based on their texts using their hadith collections.

In the introduction to Al-Burhan by Al-Bahrani, he explains a little about why he collected together this work; he said that the Qur’an has a very noble position, however it’s ta’weel, it’s interpretation is not something everyone is guided to.  Many people interpret it according to their madhab and interpretation.  He was saying people were straying away from the “correct” interpretation of the Qur’an because they are not going back to the people of “Ahl-Dhikr” and in the brackets they have ‘Ein which means Alayhi Salam refering to thier Imam.  They are not talking about the Ulimah when referring to “Ahl-dhikr,” they are referring to their Imams.  That’s why he compiled this work, to bring to the people what the Imams said about the different verses.  

[3:7] they say that only Imam can do ta3weel.

Shia Tafseer based on the reports compared to shia tafseer based on the opinions.

Al Thakalayn is a similar case.  The publisher praises this work by al Huwazy for choosing the best reports and doing the best job of collecting them and putting them in order.  These two books are highly praised amongst the Shia and are basic references.

(Footnote: Shaikh said that I have not read all of the Shia tafseer, even though I am a curious person, I am not insane.)

Dhaahir (outer), Matla3 (limited) and Baatin (esoteric) meaning of Qur’an

When you read those tafseers and when you read the introductions to almost any introduction to any Shia tafseer, (one of the most important things a reader can do is to read the introductions).  The sheikh has found one thing in common amongst all of their tafseer dealing with their methodology; that the tafseer of the Qur’an is at different levels and when you are studying the Qur’an, you find that every verse in the Qur’an has an Dhahir meaning i.e outer meaning and an Baatin meaning i.e.esoteric meaning.  Every word in the Qur’an has a 7add meaning i.e limited meaning and a matla3 meaning i.e higher meaning where related terms can be seen.  Sufis share this idea of this.  

There is a hadith about this that states explicitly that there is no verse in the Qur’an except that it has an Dhahir meaning, Baatin meaning, 7add and matla3 meaning to it.  This hadith can be found in a number of Ahl Sunnah books, like at-Tabarani, Ibn Al-mubarak book Al-zuhd, Musnad abu Ya’la, etc. [This is a weak hadith]

Obligatory to believe in all of the esoteric meanings of a verse

When you read the introduction to their tafseers, al Kashani is taken as an example, says that the Shia believe that every verse have seven esoteric meanings and some even say it every verse has 77 esoteric meanings.  All of the Shia agree that it is obligatory to believe in the baatin in the same way it is obligatory to believe in al-dhahir meaning.  Whoever rejects either has left the fold of Islam.  

Quran is all about tawheed and nabuvah (imamiyaat or leadership)

Then al Kashani answers a question that has always bothered Shaikh Jamaal; whenever you read a Shia tafseer, they will try to tie it to Ali or the Khilafah.  In the same ways it is obligatory to believe in these two terms, the apparent/clear meaning (dhahir) is all related to tawheed and nabuvah, as for the esoteric meaning is all about the walayya and the Imamah and how that authority is passed on.  That grey esoteric meaning in the Qur’an is all about the Imams and who will be the Imams after the time of the Prophet saas.

Hadith highlighting the esoteric meaning of the Quran from Shia sources

I asked and so (missed his name, sorry)... about the Quran and he gave me a response, I asked him again, and he gave me a different response. And then he questioned him about it. And then he replied it by saying that Quran has a dhaahir meaning and a baatin meaning and this inner meaning has another inner meaning. And that is what I gave you when you asked me twice.  (Very strange).

Why did they make such outlandish claims?

There is no relationship between the verse and what is stated in the tafseer. And the answer is that their belief is not rooted in the Quran and Sunnah. The only way that they could get around the problem of their belief in nabuvah or imamiyaat is to come up with the esoteric understanding of the Quran.

This hadith will be discussed as it is very important for their beliefs.

Analysis of Dhaahir and Baatin

Let’s discuss for a second dhaahir wal baatin.  Could you look at the Qur’an and think of some ways where there is something called dhaahir wal baatin.  When you go to the Qur’an, can you extrapolate from the Qur’an some meanings that are not there from the literal meanings.  Some kind of ta’weel?  

There is a famous story of Umar ibn Khattab and Ibn Abbas who was very young man.  When he got the Ibn Abbas to his circle, some of the senior sahabah asked why did he get him. Umar said that this young man understands the Quran. Umar asked people what is the meaning of the verse

to highlight the understanding of ibn Abbas. People said that the meaning is obvious and some kept quite, and then he asked ibn Abbas for his understanding of the verse. ibn Abbas explained the meaning of the verse is that it is a sign to the prophet that his death is coming. And Umar said that I have the same understanding of the verse.

Can this be used as an example of esoteric or inner meaning of the verse?

This verse was revealed at the time of the death of this prophet. And the explanation has to be consistent to what we know.

However we can argue that there is a dhaahir and baatin meaning of the verse.

Similarly Umar ibn Khattab cried when the verse was revealed that this day I have perfected my religion, [5:3]  when everybody was happy. Because he understood the implications of the verse, that the prophet has completed his task of revealing the message. [This is found in mussanaf of Abdul Razzaq, don’t know the authenticity]

Was that baatin text extracted from the text and the conclusion drawn?  Anyone can understand how to go from point A to point B?  The baatin meaning has to be justified somehow.  For the Shia, do they need to justify this if it’s coming from one of their Imams?  No, according to their beliefs.  That is the big different here.  For us, we say there needs to be some relationship and way of getting from point A to point B.  

Jaddi (flowing) Hadeeth

When you look at their baatin explanations, they have a hadith that one of their contemporary scholars call “flowing,” by Taba taba’in.  A good number of these hadith are jaddi hadith; the key behind these hadith is that they are the ones that point to the Imamah and walayah, but the reality is that no relationship can be seen between the baatini meanings and the text.  

If you just take those kind of hadith i.e flowing hadeeth, the sources become different: 2130 jaddi hadith

1.) Jafar - 820

2.) Baqir - 713

3.) Prophet saas - 190

4.) Ali - 136

5.) Ridhaa - 92

Examples of Jaddi Hadeeth

In surah al Fatiha,

Ihdeenus siraat, they say siraat means Ali

In surah al Tariq,

As-samaaa is the prophet and At-tariq is Ali

Surah Bakara [2:26] -

Allah swt does not hesitate to give an example of something less than a mosquito; this level of mosquito is really Ali.

Surah al Qudr, - Rooh here means Fatimah.

Surah Bayyinah - Deenu Al-Qayyimah this is also Fathimah.

Surah Taubah - Itna ashra sahra - these are Imams.

How did they get from point A to B, how did they say it was Ali or Fatima?

So it is not like the example of ibn Abbas when he explained the baatin meaning of a verse, we can understand it. However from their examples, it is incomprehensible.  They give examples of their enemies, for example they say when jews slaughter the cow, this Baqarah refers to Abu Bakr in Surah Bakarah.

Surah Ar-rahman, lu’lu wa marjaan this is Hassan and Hussain.

There is no way to understand that it refers to people or their enemies and they say that their Imam is able to understand this meaning.

Baatin meaning is related to dhaahir meaning and you should be able to get from point A to point B. But not so for their tafseers.

They say you are missing the understanding of their Al-walayah and Al-Imamah are all lost because they dont have this esoteric understanding of their verses.

There is a shia author who has compiled key words as a lookup for esoteric meanings, for example when you see the word ab, it means Ali.

All of the above examples are from the Twelvers madhab of the Shia.

2011-07-18 Class Notes

Batini or esoteric tafseer of the Shia

These type of tafseer are found in Shia as well as the Sufi. There is no correlation between what the verse says and the esoteric meaning. Therefore you cannot discuss it rationally, they claim it is on knowledge from Allah, and there is nothing that you can do to debate it, and they say you have to accept it at their claim.

So how do you enter into discussion into esoteric meaning of the verse? Their whole claim can be brought down by one observation.

Where is the proof that this individual, whether it is Sufi shaikh or Shia Imam, that this individual is receiving revelation or knowledge from Allah swt?

In the case of revelation to the prophet saws, we have many proofs from the Quran itself that he received divine revelation. But where is the proof that their Imam or Shaikh is receiving the revelation?

If you say it is inspiration, again you have to present your proof that you are receiving the inspiration from Allah swt.

Atleast the shia restrict it to the family of Ali, but the sufi have not restricted it to anybody in particular and they say that any auliya can receive the inspiration.

Footnote: The kufr of Sufis is worse than the kufr of the Christians, since the Christians claim that Jesus and Allah are one, where as the Sufis claim that anybody can become one with Allah swt.

Show us any proof from the Prophet saws that says that the Shia Imams will receive revelation from Allah swt?

They claim to have some proofs in regards to Ali, but when you analyze it, then you find out that it is not authentic.

So this is the basic flaw that there is no proof that anybody could receive revelation from Allah swt. And there is no interpretation from the Prophet (saws) that gave an esoteric understanding of the ayat. Even the example we quoted of dhulm in one verse in Qur’an, which the Prophet (saws) explained to us as shirk, he gave us proofs, why dhulm is equivalent to shirk.

Unfortunately the shia tafseer are full with batini interpretations. When we discuss the classification of shia tafseer we will use batini (esoteric) tafseers as one of the criteria.

Israeeliyat and fabricated hadeeth in the Shia Tafseer

One of the problems in tafseer bil Mathoor in Sunni tafseers is the reliance of Israeeliyat (stories not from the prophet, but from Jews and Christians or their fables), similarly in Shia tafseers, you will find reliance on Israeeliyat but no mention of the fact that these stories are from Israeeliyat.

Only one of their mufaseerin, al Tabirsi or some call him Tibrisi, who commented on the Israeeliyat in the tafseer and said that it is not authentic. His tafseer is the best Shia tafseer, it is beneficial even to the non Shia.

Story of Moses in Surah Araf verse 143, in which Moses says to Allah swt, let me see you. They have a story that Allah swt raised a curtain to the mountiain and the mountain escaped and it ran away to the ocean and it will continue running away till day of the judgement. Allah swt instructed angels to not let Moses run away. They claim Moses ran away and died. And he is brought back to life. And then he repents from asking Allah swt to see him and then he says that you will never be seen. This is from Israeeliyat. Sometimes they claim this story is from the Imam. And there is some Mutazilah influence on it too.

Surah Baqarah verse 248, the taabut or chest which will come and have sakinah or assurance from Allah swt, they have all sorts of details of this chest, they claim that there is a wind from Jannah and it has two heads, and they attribute this story to Ali. This is from the Israeeliyat.

Tibrisi commented on the story of Sulaiman, who lost his ring and he had his power of prophethood in this ring, and the Israeeliyat claim that shaytan came and sat in his chair. Tibrisi says there is no basis for this story. And of course the prophethood is not captured in a ring.

They have a number of fabricated hadeeth in their tafseers too. You can divide it into three categories. First category is unique reports from their Shia Imams and is unknown to the sunnis, second category is where fabricated reports are well known to the Sunnis and you will find them in their tafseers, and the third category is very dangerous, it is based on authentic hadeeth but there is something additional added to it by the shia which is a fabrication.

In Surah Ali Imran  verse 106, in which Allah swt speaks about the day when some faces will be darkened and other faces will be brightened. They have a report from Abu Darr and which reports that prophet will ask five groups of his ummah  on that day, what did you do with respect to the thaqalain the two heavy things. (Shia claims it means Qur’an and either Ali or the family of the prophet.)

The first group will say that we distorted the first heavy thing and threw it behind our back and for the second heavy thing we opposed him, angered him and ignored him. The prophet will say that this group will be blackened. The second group will be with Firaun. The last banner will be from Ali ibn Taalib, they will say that we followed  and believed the big heavy thing and we supported the second heavy thing and we fought alongside him. They say that only this group will be brightened on that day.

You find this fabricated reports in many of their tafseers. Similarly you will find many fabricated reports dealing with Prophet saws, Fatima and Ali.

Surah Al Imran verse 142, where Allah swt says do you expect to enter Jannah, .... who are the one who strive and who are patient. Here they give a long story about Ali ibn Taalib and the mention of all of the Mushreekin who were killed by Ali in the battle of Uhud, and they say that Jibrael came to the prophet (saws) and said look at the big one, and the prophet (saws), I am from him and he is from me, and then a voice from heaven cries out that there is no sword except Dhulfiqar (the sword of Ali) and there is no youth except the youth of Ali. This is a well known fabricated hadeeth that you will see in their books of tafseer.

Problems with similar names of narrators of the hadeeth (Disambiguating names of narrators and scholars)

The names of the narrators of their hadeeth are similar to the names of the narrators that we know are acceptable, so you have to be specially careful about the names and try to disambiguate the names from the acceptable narrators.

For example, there is narrator whose name is Al Siddi from the time of Taba Tabieen, However there are two Siddis, one is Siddi al Kabeer and the other is Siddi al Sagheer.  They both narrate from the same chains. Siddi al Kabeer is a well known and acceptable narrator, while Siddi al Sagheer is a well known extreme shia who is a rejected narrator of hadeeth.

Siddi al Sagheer narrated a hadeeth about Surah Yunus verse 58 where Allah swt talks about fadlilah, he says that ibn Abbas said that the grace of Allah is Muhammad and his mercy is Ali.

From the third century Hijra, there is a Sunni scholar whose name is Abdullah ibn Muslim al Qutaybah who wrote a book about the places or verses where people can misundertand Qur’an (Mushkeel Qur’an) and he wrote a book about hadeeth that seem to contradict one another (Taweel Mukhtaleef al Hadeeth) and he explains the meaning and understanding of these hadeeth. The Rafeedah or Shia Abdullah ibn Qutaybah came much later and benefited from the name that he shared with the famous Sunni scholar. The Shia ibn Qutaybah wrote a book whose title was similar to the title of the famous al Qutaybah.

Problems with Shia tafseer bil Mathur

One of the problems that makes their tafseer distasteful, is that they use verses to attack the Sahabah. Since they don’t have anything in the Qur’an or hadeeth that supports their beliefs, they have to resort to these attacks in the tafseer. This is true for the bulk of their tafseer. Some contemporary scholars call these tafseers extreme tafseers. However you will find bulk of their tafseer belong to the extreme tafseers.

Now we will discuss some of the Shia tafseer.

Tafseer of Al Hasan al Ashgari

It is one of their earliest tafseers. He is their eleventh imam. He was born in 232 Hijra and died in 260 Hijra. It covers only some verses of the Qur’an and it only covers the verses dealing with Ali. This is a very extreme tafseer and it discusses the batini (esoteric) meaning of the Qur’an and says this word means Fatima and this word means Ali. This is such an extreme tafseer, that even some Shia doubt the book’s authenticity.

Tafseer of Abu al Hasan Ali ibn Ibrahim Al Kumni

This is one of their most important tafseers. He died in 260 Hijri. His tafseer is complete and it is one of their earliest complete tafseer. He is considered theeqa or trustworthy narrator. He is one of the teachers of Muhammad ibnYaqub al Kulaini. Al Kulaini was the one who compiled their equivalent of Sahih Bukhari. This tafseer is tafseer bil Mathur.  It is narrating the narrations from their Imam. The published book and the manuscript do not match, the published book does not contain the criticism of the sahabah. It is also one of the extreme tafseers. The concept of raja’ (people come back to life from death) is used to explain some of the verses. Since he is close to their Imams, there are only two or three narrators between him and their Imams. This is considered one of the source works for the Shia.

In his commentary on Surah Al Baqarah verse 256, the verse right after

Still transcribing the lecture from last week, I have not finished it yet.

2011-07-25 Class Notes

Tonight is the last class for this quarter.

We will not have the time to go through a number of the shia tafseer. Shaikh will enumerate the shia tafseer with few comments and then highlight a few of them. The list will be presented chronologically.

Shia Tafseer

Hasan al Askari

Al Qummi

He was from Qumm and he died in 300 Hijri. Qumm and Najaf were even then important places for the Shia.

Al Ayashi

He is from 4th century Hijri. He came from a Sunni background, but shaikh said allahu alam.

Tabarsi or Tibrisi (two different pronounciations)

He died in 548 Hijri. His tafseer is much more modern, and his tafseer is good enough even for Sunnis to use. He has Shia and Mutazillah beliefs in his tafseer and if you approach his tafseer with this knowledge, then you will be alright.

Al Kashani - Tafseer al ???

He died in 1090 Hijri. He

Al Baharani - Tafseer al Burhan

He died in 1108 Hijri. His tafseer is tafseer bil Mathur

Al Huwaizi - Nur al Thaqalain

His tafseer is also tafseer bil Mathur????


He died in 1242 Hijri. Shibar’s book is not very extreme and his style is very similar to tafseer al jalaalayn.

Al Janaabadhi

He completed his work in 1311 Hijri. His work is extreme Shia as well as Sufi. Wali is the same as the Imam for the Shia, with respect to rank given to Imam. Sufi’s have silsila or chain that goes back to Ali. So there is close relationship

Muhammad Jawad al Balaaghi

He died in 1352 Hijri or 1952 CE. His tafseer is mostly balaghi tafseer of the Qur’an, it is linguistic and stylistic

Muhammad Jawad al Mugjiniahi - Tafseer al Mubeen

He died in 1978 CE. He was a prominent scholar from Najaf. He argued against some of the Shia beliefs such as Raja’, he says that belief contradicts Qur’an and Akl (reasoning). The early Shia from the time of the rafeedah were the most extreme, over

Muhammad Husain Tabatabai - Tafseer al Mizan

He died in 1981 CE. He is a philosopher, Sufi, Shia. He has a book in English called Shia Islam. Problem with Shia books is that there are outlandish ideas in it, however he has presented Shia beliefs in a reasonable and presentable way.

Muhammad Husain Fadhlullah

He is alive today. He studied in Najaf and he is associated with Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. He has some unique insights in his tafseer, which the Shaikh has not found anywhere else, specially for the Surah ???

Shaikh will send out the handout with the names in it, we will fix the names when we receive the handout.

Somebody from Nigeria has a chapter on Tabarsi’s Shia beliefs. Shaikh is pretty sure that the author is not Shia, the author was very impressed by Tabarsi and he has not strong in hadeeth, so his conclusions are cloudy.

Just like before, we will discuss how Tabarsi does tafseer of Ayat al Kursi.

Meaning of the verse is very important in the tafseer. Then they might provide for you some addition story or highlight or some aspect of that. IN general they try to stay close to … they do not try to go from the meanign to what are some of the lessons. That wasnt their goals that is one of the hsirt comings w.r.t sunni tafseer, they are sticking to what they are sticking to what is known and correct and they dont try to derive this is what it is meaning and this is what the implication is. You can argue this is outside the realm of tafseer whcih is not true. For ex: Syed Qutb Fee Dhilaal quran is of this kind and thats why it came under criticisation that this is not tafseer where he tried to derive the implication as well.  

His (M.H.Fadhlullah) discussion of Al-Qayyum it higlight something that others do not higliht. Especailly now a days people also need not only what they mean but what is the implication of it.

Going back to Ayashi’s work it has got of quotes from Imam like jaffar. e quotes Jaffer sadiq we Imam are the intercessors including the Prophet and quotes Jaffer Sadiq. everything has pheonical and the poeonical of Quran is Ayathul kursi.....

He quotes couple of other passage like Jaffer sadiq said all that god created is in the Kursi

Once Jaffer sadiq was asked Is the kursi embraces the heaves and the earth or it covers everything Jafer saidq said everything is in kursi.

Al Ayashi are reports from Jafer al Sadiq and Ali. But not much reports from the prophet or the sahabah.

We discussed bahrawi and quwaysi both of those are extreme and they are tafseer bil ma3thoor.

They contain batani or esoteric intepretations which point to the Imams in the verses of the Quran

Tabarsi’s tafseer

Tabarsi tafseer stands out very different from all other shia tafseers. Tabarsi’s tafseer (d 548) by his time the introduction of mu3tazilah belief entered shia especially in Iraq. Sheikh ul mufeed (d 430) who student ... (d 436) and then you come … and then you come to tabarsi. By this time mu3tazili beliefs entered into shia aqeedah.

In the case of Tabarsi he had some sunni teacher and one of his sunni teacher is Muhummad al husain al kirmani the same teacher has Sharh on saheeh Al-Bukhari. H had another teacher who was sufi and also he had influence of zamakshari tafseer al-kasshaf. He has book called majma al bayaan and another book Juwaami al Jam’i, this book is an abrigdement of both his work and zamakshari’s tafseer. he was a well rounded scholar, he was excellent in the Arabic language as well. He quotes Sunni sources, leading grammarians, Mutazilah scholars. It is very comprehensive in sources for his material.

He was also a fiqh scholar. He himself had some when it comes to fiqh he has some intresting points in it. We did not the fiqh beliefs of the Shia. One of his beliefs in fiqh was that Breast feeding does not create prohibited relationship among the people, if you remember that forbidden to you in marriage are women who are breastfed by the same foster mother. He also believed that there is no concept of minor sins and all sins are major sins. That belief is which some sunni scholars also have.

As you go through his books one of the nice things about it is his organization of the book. He systemically goes through. He goes to different qiraat and he will discuss the lugha and he will goes though the meaning. After each verse he has different heading. His work is very organized and very consistent and nicely put together.

There is a story about what led him to write this tafseer. Apparently he had heart attack and he thought he was dead and actually he was buried alive and some grave robbers and  came to steal the shroud. While they came he woke up and he made a vow that if he is survive that he will write the tafseer and then he came out of the grave with the help of the robbers. After that he came back and he dedicated to write the  book.

Ad Dhabhi quoted on this tafseer who is from the Egypt and he was the minister of education and who was killed. He has book called tafsser al-muffassiroon he said in elityt tabarsi tafseer knowing the fact that it has shia and mutazilah beliefs it is actually a great work in this field, he called it kitaabun .... . He says the author is well grounded in different aspects and disciplines and methodology is very clear and has very beautiful organization and he was excellent in all the field he spoke about like if he speaks about grammar, qiraat, general meaning. asbaab he was excellent and explanation of stories and he does excellent job and when he speaks about fiqh of ther madhabs even though he supports his madhab but he is familiar other very well. He describes the verse in very beautiful manner and he quotes from previous mufasireen and attributes it properly and backs his argument even though he support shia and sometimes he goes out scope to support shia.

By looking at what Ad - Dhahabi . This shows that although we know that the was shia and mutazialh but it was good work this is what distinguishes from other shia books.

Example of Tafarsi’s tafseer - Ayat al Kursi

He says that this passage is two verses according to Basran readings but only one verse according to other readings.

He starts to present some of the hadeeth that speaks about virtues of Ayatul Kursi, one of the weakness of this hadeeth has fabricated hadeeth which comes from both Shia and more  from Sunni sources.

While discussing virtues of the verse he quotes couple of hadeeth from Tha3labi who has tafseer based on reports quotes a hadeeth from Abdullah bin Amr (you are not going to see in shia book even if it is a hadeeth) that prophet who ever recites ayat ul kursi after the prayer will have his sins forgiven........

He quotes another hadeeth from Ali and Quotes from Abu Jafar ….. and he says it is related from Jafer sadiq that ereything has phinical and phinical of quran is  Aytahul qursi.

Then he goes to discuss the virtues of the language sometimes the discussion of language is most comprehensive.

He says that al hayy is one who is in possession of ... or you can say such a one who is in possession of an attribute is ..... He is influence by mutazila . He quotes number of [poetry and next w.r.t to kursi there is 8 differnt lines of poetry. He analyzing what each words means in linguistic manner. After that he goes to meaning. so he says ….he says Atythul qursi is about Tawheed and there is no batini claims that this is refering to Imam,  You don’t see the batini or esoteric aspects in his tafseer, but he presents a logical explanation of why some verse refers to Ali.

In his discussion of al Qayyum who manages all aspects of creation form the origination of the beginning to the end. And he reports from from Qatadah (one of the people which is not seen in shia)

Qayyyum means eternally existent and he quotes from Tabieen and he is getting this from his sunni teachers even not from mutazili sources. He also quotes from Hassan Al-basri while explaining the meaning. Which is not seen in the Shia book.

When he interprets the verse about intercession, he properly describes it and stops there, he does not say that his Imams will have the intercession.

When he talks about “ma maa aydihim)  he quotes from Mujaahid, As-saha.

Only at the end he quotes from Al-Qummi from his father from Hussain. So it is a shia tafser but very different from other shia. In his books you have to search for shia aspects where in other the shia books the shia books jumps out.

Sh. JZ never heard anyone saying the Tabarsi is non trustworthy. In SB there are people who are from bid3a groups and they were trustworthy and honest.

Syed Muhammad Husain Tabatabai - Tafseer al Mizan

He is Sufi philosopher and Shia. If you are familiar with Syed Husain Naser, who has written many books in English. Tabatabai would have sessions with Syed Hosain naser and Corbin. They would discuss things like works of Hindus such as the Upanishads and other religious books and things about mysticism. Eventually all mystics take everything from everywhere about mystiscm.

His tafser had shia aspect about it and also lots of philisophical and sufi influenece. It is also soclailogical tafseer. His tafsser of Ayatul kursi is extremely long and we dont have time to discuss it.

One paragraph where he talks bout Al-Hayy. Shaikh then read from his tafseer, which we were unable to capture.  He says that real life is what Allah swt has and this life and the hereafter have its source in life of Allah swt. From this we can get a idea that there is lot of philosophopy and sufism.

Then he starts with something called as tradition this is where the shia stuff starts.

We have come to the end of our time and we have to move on.