Friday, March 25, 2011

Understanding the principles of Tafseer - part 1


This abridged tafsir based on the book ‘tayseer ila usul it-tafsir’ by Shaykh Ata bin Khalil Abu Rishta describes the initial phase of Prophet Mohammed (saw) mission to convey the message of Islam to take humanity from darkness to light. The tafsir of the ayat vividly illustrates how Allah (swt) communicated in the Arabic language challenging the belief, customs and values of the Arabs. Their resistance turned to denial then to open hostility yet the Arabs could not refute the truthfulness of Allah (swt) speech delivered in a language in which the Arabs were masters.
Bismillah irrahmaniraheem
الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله وعلى آله ومن ولاه, وبعد:
Allah sent Muhammad with the message of Islam to take the people from the darkness into the light with the permission of their Lord, to the path of al-‘Azeez al-Hameed.
Alif Lam Ra. [This is] a Book which We have revealed to you that you may bring forth men, by their Lord’s permission from utter darkness into light—to  the way of the Mighty, the Praised One,” [Ibraheem 1]
He made his miracle صلاوات الله و سلامه عليه and the proof of his prophet-hood a blessed book from Allah, the Qur’anal-Kareem, the speech of Allah al-‘Adheem, which
“Falsehood shall not come to it from before it nor from behind it; a revelation from the Wise, the Praised One.”[Fusilat 42]
Allah sent it down in the language of the Arabs, from the letters of their speech, addressing them with a clear Arabic tongue, calling them to become believers in it, understand it and adhere to it; but, they found that it did not recognize for them their desires nor did it give their idols any weight, nor did it give any legitimacy to their wickedness and corruption as they used to do. On the contrary, it ridiculed their idols, condemned their cruelty, oppression and tyranny, bringing equality between the slave and the master, the near and the far, the Arab and non-Arab, except for who is most pious, so he is purest,
“O people, truly your lord is one and your father is one. There is not superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, nor of a non-Arab over an Arab, except according to taqwa. Nor for red over black, nor black over red, except according to taqwa.”
All of you are from Adam and Adam is from dust,
“O you men! surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other; surely the most honourable of you with Allah is the most pious; surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.” [al-Hujarat 13]
When they heard what Rasul Allah (saw) came with, they comprehended and knew that it was from Allah, the speech of Allah and not the speech of man. They were the people of the language and its masters, it is their tongue and their instinct, it is their product and their goods, and with it in their markets they would compete and with its blades they would debate.
Except that they stopped at that which they heard, then they thought and evaluated, so how could they be equal to their slaves?!… and how can they live without servants?!… then how can they be masters if they are not tyrants and oppressors demonstrating their power, the fierce who does not fear anyone?!… how and how?!…
At this, they denied it, after they had comprehended it.
“They said, you are only a man like us, and ar-Rahman did not send down anything, you only lie” [Yasin 15], so they turned their backs arrogantly, increasing in their insolence wandering blindly.
They thought that the matter would end at that, as they were greater in number and more vociferous. They will say that what Muhammad brings is only
“The stories of the ancients– he has got them written—so these are read out to him morning and evening” [al-Furqan 5],
“And when Our verses are recited to them, they say: We have heard indeed; if we wanted we could say the like of it; this is nothing but the stories of the ancients” [al-Anfal 31], and that they could recite as he recites, then they turned their backs arrogantly laughing.
They did not expect that the proof would be established against them, and who could defeat them?! Rather, who could even debate with them?! If Muhammad said a word, they would say ten. If he raised his voice a little, they would gather for him loud shouting bellowing voices,
“The likeness of those who are kafir is that of someone who yells out to something which cannot hear – it is nothing but a cry and a call. Deaf – dumb – blind. They do not use their intellect.” [al-Baqarah 171]
They related falsehood to confront the true stories, thinking that with those falsifications the truth would get lost in the crowd.
Yet, the matter came not as they desired, and from where they had not reckoned. It was said to them, if you are truthful in your claims that what Muhammad recites is just a man’s saying; that if you wanted, then you would say like he says; so the arena is in front of you and the battlefield is at your fore. This Qur’an is a witness, not absent. You hear its verses and comprehend its words. Its letters are from the same letters that you utter, so come on, bring the like of it. If you can do that and bring the like of this Qur’an, then the matter is as you said.
“Say: If men and jinn should come together to bring the like of this Qur’an, they could not bring the like of it, even if they were helpers one of another” [al-Isra’ 88]
But, they did not do so. Instead, they turned back on their heels confused. So, from one angle they knew that it was Allah’s words, as was pronounced by the truthful and trustworthy one, as they were the people of the language and its masters, yet from another angle they were not able to admit to that. For their idols, their dreams, their corrupted and corrupting interests will, if they did that, become as dust blown by the wind in a storm. They would be unable to grab anything of what they had gained. That is the great loss. So, they turned round in a circle and immediately began searching maybe they could find what would lengthen by a few days the period until the announcement of their failing in the challenge, thus delaying the establishment of the proof against them. They found, as was evident in their actions, that bringing the like of the whole Qur’an is a difficult thing, so the burden was lightened a little when it was said to them:
“Or, do they say: He has forged it. Say: Then bring ten forged chapters like it and call upon whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful.” [Hud 13]
But, they could not do that, so they returned to their original remarks. The comprehensive proof completely conquered them:
“Or do they say: He has forged it? Say: Then bring a chapter like this and invite whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful.” [Yunis 38]
You, and every helper from the creation that you can muster, from wherever and whatever it is. Yet again, they could not do so. The proof was the final proof and the last word:
“And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful. But if you do not and never shall you do [it], then fear the fire of which men and stones are the fuel; prepared for the unbelievers.” [al-Baqarah 23-24]
You will not only be unable to do it now, but you will never ever be able to do it for all eternity. The Qur’an is the speech of Allah الحقّ. The speech of man does not come close to his kingdom, nor do the words of the Jinn ascend to approach it. It is الحقّ the truth that the falsehood does not come near to, not from the front nor from behind; a revelation sent down from a wise praised one.
That was enough for them to become believers, except that Shaytan got the better of them, desires destroyed them,
“The love of desires, of women and sons and hoarded treasures of gold and silver and well bred horses and cattle and tilth, is made to seem attractive to men; this is the provision of the life of this world; and Allah is He with Whom is the good goal [of life].” [aal-‘Irman14] They gave a lower status to knowledge, were haughty and stubborn, remaining on their kufr (disbelief) while they knew fully well.
This compounded their confusion and brought them bewilderment on top of bewilderment.
How could the masters convince the masses that this Qur’an is not the speech of Allah? How can they turn them away from it, so that they do not follow it?
They gave great importance to the issue and seriously searched for a way out of this predicament. However, their destruction was in their plans, so instead of making clear a way out, their predicament got even worse,
“To Him is due the true prayer; and those whom they pray to besides Allah give them no answer, but [they are] like one who stretches forth his two hands towards water that it may reach his mouth, but it will not reach it; and the prayer of the unbelievers is only in error.”[ar-Ra’d14]
They entered with kufr and exited with it, establishing the proof against themselves, instead of raising for themselves a proof.
They said: “they are nothing but Muhammad’s words”, but how when Muhammad’s words differ from that which he recites? And how when Muhammad is illiterate while his people read and write, yet they are incapable of bringing the like of it? It is therefore not a valid statement that they are Muhammad’s words, so they put this accusation behind them and left it.
They said: “a man who is not from us teaches him” and mentioned a foreign Christian, yet they had it turned on their heads:
“And certainly We know that they say: It is a man that teaches him. The tongue of him whom they incline to is notably foreign, and this is clear Arabic tongue.” [an-Nahl103]
So, they put that behind them and left it.
Then, they said: “It is nothing but narrated magic, charming words”, however they found that the proof was established against them, as it was an evidence of their inability, such that the book in front of them appeared to be magic due to its strength and greatness. Also, the proof was against them, as magic has a reality well known to them due the their extensive experience with it, and they knew the difference between the utterances of the magician and these great words.
They were about to drop this statement, if they hadn’t found that they were able to convince some of the general public with their saying: “don’t you see that the entering of a family member into Islam is what makes the son, if he became Muslim, leave worshipping the idols of his father, therefore Islam divides between them, as if it were magic?”
They found that this was more useful for misguiding than other ways, so they relied upon it:
“Then he said: This is naught but enchantment, narrated [from others]”. [al-mudathir 24]
However, it was as if they jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.
Whoever listens to Allah’s words recited is absolutely certain that what he hears is not magic, therefore they agreed among themselves to come between the people and them listening to the Qur’an:
“And those who disbelieve say: Do not listen to this Qur’an and make noise therein, perhaps you may overcome.” [Fusilat 26]
They made noise to disturb it until no-one would hear it from Rasul Allah, rather the situation reached the point where they met with the riders, talking to them about the magic of Muhammad (saw) sometimes with temptation and other times with fear, afraid that they might hear it and realise that it is from Allah, as they themselves had become aware. They did this so that neither the Bedouin Arabs, the travellers nor the residents would become believers, such that they delay, if they could, the emergence of Islam and the raising of its banner. They did it to obstruct, without increasing the army of ar-Rahman and the elevation of His word, yet they should have known that there is no way for that to come to them, if they were intelligent.
This is how they proceeded; on the one hand they were pulled by their recognition that this Qur’an is Allah’s speech, such that even their leaders would go secretly to the house of Rasul Allah (saw) to listen at night to what was being recited of the verses of the Qur’an, and الذكر الحكيم (the Wise Reminder). If they saw some of the others while they were returning, they agreed to never return again, so that the general public would not see them. But, they did return, the Qur’an had captured their hearts, so one of them would say: “It is so graceful, and so sweet, its lowest part is abundant and its highest part is fruitful, confirming that it is not the words of man.”
That is from one side; they were pulled by their recognition that this Qur’an is Allah’s speech. On the other hand, they were pulled by their idols, that which their forefathers were on, their interests and their lusts.
Whoever had a pure nature, a clean mind, became aware, repented, believed and became pious/fearful.
Whoever’s eyes were blinded and he settled lower than low, while his corrupt world ascended for him to the highest levels, remained wandering in his insolence prostrating to and clasping his idols. Like this, he became a believer whoever believed and a disbeliever whoever disbelieved… he raced to Iman(what makes a believer a believer) whoever raced, and procrastinated whoever procrastinated until the Islamic state was established in Madinah (المدينة المنورة). Islam was spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula then that light extended to end the oppression of the great states of the time. Persia was shattered, the Romans were cut apart and the Islamic state became great. Justice was spread as a companion of the Jihad, the flag of Islam was raised, the flag of لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله (there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger). The conquests widened and the earth radiated with Islam and the army of Islam.
Based on the book ‘tayseer ila usul it-tafsir’ by Shaykh Ata bin Khalil Abu Rishta

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