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Aboo Uthmaan

How Do We Interpret The Qur'aan?

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From the Tafsir of at-Tabaree:

 

It is related by Ibn Jarir at-Tabaree on the authority of Ibn 'Abbaas (radee Allaahu 'anhu) that the Messenger (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:

 

“Whoever speaks concerning the Qur'aan according to his own opinion, let him expect his seat in the Fire.â€

 

And Abu Bakr al-Siddique (radee Allaahu 'anhu) said:

 

“What earth shall carry me, what heavens shall shelter me, if I say concerning the Book of Allah things of which I have no knowledge.â€

 

(Tafsir at-Tabare, Vol. 1 Pgs. 77-78)

 

Ibn Jarir at-Tabaree says:

 

These reports bear witness to what we have said, that it is not permitted for anyone to interpret, according to his ra'i (personal opinion), those verses of the Qur'aan whose interpretation can only be known through a text (hadeeth) of the Messenger of Allaah (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) or through an indication towards it which he has given. Moreover, whoever propounds his own ra'i on this will be at fault in what he does, even if he thereby attains the truth, for the very reason of having spoken in this way. For his conclusion will not be that of someone who is sure that he is right, only that of someone who guesses and follows his own surmise; and whoever speaks about the religion of Allaah according to his own surmise speaks that about Allaah (subhaanahu wa t'aalaa) which he does not know, Allaah (subhaanahu wa t'aalaa) forbade his servants to do this when He said in His Book:

 

"Say: My Lord has only forbidden indecencies, the inward and the outward, and sin and unjust insolence, and that you associate with Allah that for which He sent down no authority and that concerning Allah such as you know not.†(7:33)

 

(Tafsir at-Tabaree: Jaami’ al-Bayan ‘an ta’weel ayal Qur'aan)

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By Shaykh Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen al-Albaanee

Taken from: Kayfa yajibu 'alaynaa an-Nufassir al-Qur'aan, Pgs. 35-40

 

Question: How are we obligated to interpret the noble Qur'aan?

 

Answer: Allaah, Blessed and Exalted, sent the Qur'aan down to the heart of His Messenger Muhammad (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) in order to bring mankind from out of the darkness of disbelief and ignorance to the light of Islaam. Allaah says: "Alif-Laam-Raa. This is a Book which We have revealed unto you (O Muhammad) in order that you may lead mankind from out of the darkness (of disbelief) into the light (of Islaam), by the permission of their Lord, to the path of the All-Mighty, the Most Praiseworthy." [surah Ibraaheem: 1]

 

And He placed His Messenger (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) to clarify, interpret and explain what is in the Qur'aan. Allaah says: "And We revealed to you (O Muhammad), the Reminder (i.e. the Sunnah), in order for you to explain to mankind what was (already) revealed to them, and so that they may reflect." [surah An-Nahl: 44]

 

So the Sunnah came in order to explain and clarify what is found in the noble Qur'aan, and it is (also) a revelation sent by Allaah, as He says: "And he (i.e. Muhammad) does not speak from his own desire. Rather, it is just revelation that is revealed to him." [surah An-Najm: 3-4]

 

Furthermore, the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: "I was indeed given the Qur’aan and something similar to it along with it. It is imminent that there will come a time where a man who has eaten to his full will recline on his couch and say: 'Stick to the Qur'aan. Whatever you find in it that is Halaal (lawful), then declare it lawful. And whatever you find in it that is Haraam (unlawful), then declare it unlawful!' Whereas, whatever Allaah’s Messenger made unlawful is just like what Allaah made unlawful."

 

So the first source that must be used to interpret the noble Qur'aan is the Qur'an (itself) along with the Sunnah, which consists of the Prophet’s (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam's) statements, actions and silent approvals. Then after that, it must be interpreted using the interpretations (tafsir) of the people of knowledge, at the head of whom are the Companions of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). And the foremost amongst the Companions with regard to this subject (tafsir) is 'Abdullaah ibn Mas'ud (radee Allaahu 'anhu). This is due to several factors, one being that he was one of the first to accompany the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) (i.e. accept Islaam), and another being that he (radee Allaahu 'anhu) would give strong emphasis to asking about, understanding, and interpreting the Quraaan. Then after him comes 'Abdullaah ibn 'Abbaas (radee Allaahu 'anhu), about whom 'Abdullaah ibn Mas'ud (radee Allaahu 'anhu) said: "He is the interpreter (turjumaan) of the Qur'aan."

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Then after them, any Companion whose interpretation (tafsir) of an "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url] can be authentically confirmed – and there exists no difference of opinion amongst the Companions regarding it, we accept this interpretation (tafsir) from him with full contentment, submission and reliance. And if no such tafsir can be found (from the Companions) regarding a particular "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url], then we take its tafsir from the Taabi'een, particularly those who specialized in studying tafsir under the Companions of Allaah’s Messenger (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), such as Sa'eed bin Jubair, Taawoos and others who are well known for their studying of tafsir under some of the Companions, particularly 'Abdullaah ibn 'Abbaas (radee Allaahu 'anhu), as we mentioned previously.

 

Unfortunately, there are some "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayaat[/url] that are interpreted according to a certain opinion or madhhab (school of Jurisprudence), and for which no direct explanation from the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) can be found. So because of this, some latter day individuals relied solely on applying such aayah's according to their madhhab in order to interpret them. And this is an extremely dangerous matter – where "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayaat[/url] are interpreted in order to support one’s madhhab and (personal) views – whereas the scholars of tafsir have interpreted these verses in a different way than the adherents of these madhaahib have interpreted them.

 

Perhaps, we should mention an example of this, which is Allaah’s statement: "So recite what is easy from the Qur’aan." [surah Al-Muzammil: 20] Some of the adherents of certain madhaahib have interpreted this aayah to refer to just the recitation itself, meaning: What is obligatory to recite from the Qur'aan in all of the prayers is just one long aayah or three short "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayaat[/url]. They said this in spite of there being reported the authentic hadeeth from the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam): "There is no prayer for the one who doesn’t recite the opening chapter (Faatihah) of the Book (Qur'aan)." And in another hadeeth, the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: "Whoever performs a prayer in which he doesn’t recite the opening chapter of the Book, then it is deficient, deficient, deficient, and not complete."

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The basis of proof indicated in these two hadeeths is rejected by the aforementioned interpretation of the above "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url], which is that the "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url] refers to the recitation of the Qur'aan in general. And according to them, it is not permissible to interpret the Qur'aan except with the Sunnah that came in mutawaatir [1] form – meaning it is not permitted to interpret the mutawaatir except with the mutawaatir. So because of this, they rejected the two previously mentioned hadeeth due to their relying on their opinion or madhhab for the interpretation of this "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url].

 

In spite of this, all of the scholars of tafsir, past and present, have explained that the meaning of the noble ayah: "So recite what is easy from the Qur’aan" is: “So pray what is easy for you from the Night Prayer (Tahajjud).†This is since Allaah mentioned this part of the "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url] in connection to His saying (i.e. the complete "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url]): "Verily, your Lord knows that you stand (to pray at night) a little less than two thirds of the night, or half the night, or a third of the night, and also a party of those with you. And Allaah measures the night and the day. He knows that you are unable to pray the entire night, so He has turned to you (in mercy). So recite what is easy from the Qur’aan." [surah Al-Muzammil: 20]

 

The last part means: "So pray what is easy for you from the Night Prayer (Tahajjud)." Therefore, the "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url] is not in reference to what a person is obligated to recite specifically during the night prayer. Rather, (in this "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url]), Allaah facilitates for the Muslims to pray what they are able to perform from the Night Prayer. This means that they are not obligated to pray what the Messenger of Allaah (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) used to pray, which was eleven rak'aat, as you are aware of.

 

So this is the meaning of the "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url]. It is phrased in an Arabic style of "applying a portion, by which the whole is intended." Thus, Allaah’s statement: "So recite" means: "So pray." The prayer is the whole, while the recitation (in prayer) is the portion. The purpose of this phrasing is to clarify the importance of this portion with respect to that whole. Another example of this is Allaah’s statement: "Perform the prayer from midday until the darkness of the night (Dhuhr, 'Asr, Maghrib, 'Ishaa), and (also) the (recitation of the) Qur'aan of Fajr (dawn)." [surah Al-Israa: 78]

 

The meaning of "the Qur'aan of Fajr" is "the Fajr Prayer." So in this situation also, the portion is applied but the whole is intended. This is a style in the Arabic Language that is well known.

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So therefore, after showing the interpretation of this "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url] from the Scholars of tafsir, without there being any difference of opinion amongst the past and present from them, it is not permissible to reject the first and second hadeeths (mentioned previously), claiming that they are ahead, and that it is not permissible to interpret the Quraaan with ahaad hadeeth! This is since the aforementioned "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url] was interpreted by the statements of the Scholars who are knowledgeable of the language of the Qur'aan. This is first, and secondly, it is because the hadeeth of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) does not contradict the Qur'aan, but rather, it explains and clarifies it, as we explained in the beginning of this discussion. How can this be when this "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a003.html#ayah"]aayah[/url] has no relation to the subject of what a Muslim is obligated to recite during prayer, regardless of whether it is an obligatory or recommended prayer.

 

But as for the two aforementioned hadeeths, then it is clear that they both are on the subject of a person’s prayer not being valid unless he recites Soorah al-Faatihah in it: "There is no prayer for the one who doesn’t recite the opening chapter (Faatihah) of the Book (Qur’aan)" and "Whoever performs a prayer in which he doesn’t recite the opening chapter of the Book, then it is deficient, deficient, deficient, and not complete."

 

This means that the prayer is defective. So whoever finishes his prayer while it is deficient, then he in fact didn’t pray at all. And his prayer at this point becomes invalid, as is apparent in the first hadeeth.

 

So if this reality becomes clear to us, we must therefore feel secure with the "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a000.html#ahadith"]ahaadeeth[/url] that come to us from the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), which are reported in the books of Sunnah, firstly, and with their authentic chains of narration, secondly. And we must have no doubts or uncertainties about them due to some philosophical approach to the "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a000.html#ahadith"]ahaadeeth[/url], which we hear about in current times, such as:

 

"We only accept the ahaad "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a000.html#ahadith"]ahaadeeth[/url] on issues regarding rulings, and not for issues regarding creed. This is since matters of creed cannot be established based on ahaad "you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.gawaher(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/glossary/glossary_a000.html#ahadith"]ahaadeeth[/url]." [2]

 

This is what they claim! Yet we know for a fact that the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) sent Mu’adh bin Jabal (radee Allaahu 'anhu) to call the People of the Scripture to believe in Tawheed, and he was just one individual.

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This brief discussion is sufficient with regard to this topic that I wanted to clarify, which is related to: How are we obligated to interpret the Noble Qur'aan?

 

May Allaah send His Peace and Blessings on our Prophet, Muhammad, his family, Companions and those who follow them in goodness until the Day of Recompense, and all praise is for Allaah, Lord of all that exists.

 

Footnotes:

 

[1] A Mutawaatir hadeeth is a narration that has been reported by a group of people that is so large that it is impossible to conceive that they conspired to lie regarding it.

 

[2] An ahaad hadeeth is a narration reported by just one narrator. It is the opposite of Mutawaatir. A Mutawaatir hadeeth is a narration that has been reported by a group of people that is so large that it is impossible to conceive that they conspired to lie regarding it.

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