Selections from the Introduction
of Tafsir al-Qurtubi
In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, Most Merciful
The General Virtues of the Qur'an and encouragement to study it
This topic is vast and scholars have written many books on it. We will mention some points which point out the excellence of the Qur'an and what Allah has prepared for its people when they are sincere for His sake and act by it. The first aspect of the excellence of the Qur'an that the believer should be aware of is that it is from the Lord of the worlds and is uncreated. It consists of unparalleled words and has a quality which has no equivalent or like. It comes from the light of Allah's Essence. Recitation is the voices of the reciters and their tunes. It is their acquisition, and they are commanded to do it as an obligation in certain acts of worship and it is recommended at many times. They are forbidden to recite it when they are in a state of major impurity, and are rewarded for doing it and punished for abandoning it. This is part of what the Muslims, the people of the Truth, agree on. Traditions state that and well-known reports prove it.
Reward and punishment are only connected to what is part of what people earn, as will be explained. Were it not that Allah had placed in the hearts of His slaves the strength to bear it so that they can reflect on it, study it and remember what it contains of His obedience, worship and performing his duties and obligations, they would be too weak and would collapse under its weight or perish. How could they bear it when Allah says, "Had We sent down this Qur'an onto a mountain, you would have seen it humbled, crushed to pieces out of fear of Allah" (59:21)? What is the strength of hearts compared to that of the mountains? But Allah provided His slaves with the strength to bear what He wishes as a favour and mercy from Him.
As for traditions about this topic, the first is what at-Tirmidhi transmitted from Abu Sa'id that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The blessed and exalted Lord said, 'If anyone is distracted from asking Me by the Qur'an and remembering Me, I will give him better than what I give the askers." He also said, "The excellence of the words of Allah over all other words is like the excellence of Allah over His creation." (hasan gharib hadith) As-Samarqandi reported in his Musnad that 'Abdullah said, "The seven long suras are like the Torah. The suras with a hundred ayats are like the Gospel. and the Mathani is like the Zabur. The rest of the Qur'an is excellent."
In at-Tirmidhi, 'Ali reported, "I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, 'There will be trials like patches of dark night.' I asked, 'Messenger of Allah, how can one escape them?' He replied, 'The Book of Allah, Blessed and exalted, contains your history, information about what came before you, news about what will come after you and correct judgement between you. It is decisive, not a jest. Allah will crush any tyrant who abandons it and Allah will misguide whoever seeks guidance from other than it. It is the Firm Rope of Allah, His Clear Light and the Wise Reminder. It is the Straight Path. Passions are not misguided by it, the tongues do not become sated with it, and the godfearing do not become bored by it. It does not wear out when it is recited a lot and its wonders do not cease. It is that which the jinn did not leave once they had heard it. They said, "We heard a wonderful Qur'an which guides to right guidance." (72:1-2) Whoever knows it has knowledge which takes precedence. Whoever utters it speaks the truth. Whoever judges by it is just. Whoever acts by it is rewarded. Whoever calls to it is guided to a straight path. Take it, one-eyed."1
[1. Referring to Ibrahim an-Nakha'i, who had one eye.]
Al-Anbari says in his book, The Refutation of the One who Opposes the Recension of 'Uthman, transmitting from 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "This Qur'an is the Banquet of Allah. Learn as much as you can from His banquet. This Qur'an is the Rope of Allah, and it is the Clear Light and Useful Healing. It is a protection for the one who clings to it and a rescue for the one who follows it. It is not crooked and so puts things straight. It does not deviate so as to be blamed. Its wonders do not cease. It does not wear out with much repetition. So recite it. Allah will reward you with ten good deeds for every letter of its recitation. I do not say that Alif-Lam-MÆm is a letter nor two alifs, one placing its foot on the other. You should not stop reciting Surat al-Baqara. Shaytan flees from a house in which Surat al-Baqara is recited. The house most devoid of good is a house empty of the Book of Allah." In Gharib Abu 'Ubayd quotes 'Abdullah (ibn Mas'ud): "This Qur'an is the Banquet of Allah. Whoever enters it is safe." He said, "The interpretation of the hadith is that it is a metaphor. The Qur'an is likened to something Allah has prepared for people. They have good and benefits in it. Then He invited them to it."
Al-Bukhari transmits from 'Uthman ibn 'Affan that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The best of you is the one who learns the Qur'an and teaches it." Muslim transmitted from Abu Musa that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The metaphor of a believer who recites the Qur'an is that of a citron – its scent is fragrant and its taste is good. The metaphor of a believer who does not recite the Qur'an is that of a date – it has no scent but its taste is sweet. The metaphor of a hypocrite who recites the Qur'an is that of basil - its scent is fragrant but its taste is bitter. The metaphor of a hypocrite who does not recite the Qur'an is that of colocynth - it has no scent and its taste is bitter."
Abu Bakr al-Anbari mentioned that when someone finished the Qur'an, Abu 'Abdu'r-Rahman as-Sulami would sit him before him and put his hand on his head and say to him, "You! Fear Allah! I do not know of anyone better than you if you act by what you know." Ad-Darimi reported that Wahb ad-Dhimari said, "If Allah gives someone the Qur'an and he stands reciting it at the ends of the night and the ends of the day and acts by what is in it and dies in obedience, on the Day of Rising Allah will raise him up with the angels and Prophets."
Muslim related that 'A'isha reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Someone who recites the Qur'an and is fluent in it is with the noble pious angels. Someone who recites the Qur'an and stammers in it has two rewards as it is difficult for him." He will have one reward for the recitation and one reward for the difficulty. The levels of the fluent reciter are all above that because the Qur'an was difficult for him and then he rose beyond that to be like the angels. Allah knows best.
At-Tirmidhi reports from 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Whoever recites a letter of the Book of Allah earns a good deed, and each good deed is worth ten like it. I do not say that 'Alif-lam-mim' is one letter, but that alif is a letter, lam is a letter, and mim is a letter." (hasan sahih gharib)
Muslim reported that 'Uqba ibn 'Amir said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, came out to us while we were in the Suffa and asked, 'Which of you would like to go every day to Buthan or to al-'Aqiq and bring two large-humped she-camels from it without wrongdoing?' We said, 'Messenger of Allah, all of us would like that!' He said, 'Does not one of you go to the mosque and teach or recite two ayats from the Book of Allah? That is better for him than two camels, and three verses are better for him than three camels, four verses are better than four camels, and so on regarding the number of camels."
Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Allah will relieve anyone who relieves a believer of one of the afflictions of this world of one of the afflictions of the Day of Rising. Allah will give ease in this world and the Next to anyone who eases the hardship of another. Allah will veil anyone who veils another Muslim in this world and the Next. Allah will help His slave as long as His slave is helping his brother. Whoever travels a path on which he seeks knowledge, Allah will make the path to the Garden easy for him. People do not meet in one of the houses of Allah to recite the Book of Allah and study it together without tranquillity descending on them, mercy covering them, angels encircling them and Allah mentioning them to those who are with Him."
Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i, ad-DarimÆ, and at-Tirmidhi reported that 'Uqba ibn 'Amir heard the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, "The one who recites the Qur'an publicly is like the person who gives his sadaqa publicly. The one who recites the Qur'an secretly is like the person who conceals his sadaqa." (hasan gharib) At-Tirmidhi reported from Abu Hurayra that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The Qur'an will come on the Day of Rising and say, 'O Lord, robe him!' and he will put on him the crown of nobility.' It will say, 'O Lord, more!' and he will put on him the robe of honour. Then it will say, 'O Lord, be pleased with him!' and He will be pleased with him. It will be said, 'Recite and ascend,' and he will be increased with a good deed for every ayat." (sahih)
Abu Dawud reported from 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Those who know the Qur'an will be told, 'Recite and ascend. Recite slowly as you did in the world below. Your station will be at the last verse you recite.'" Ibn Majah transmits it from Abu Sa'id al-Khudri who reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The one who knows the Qur'an will be told, 'Recite and ascend.' He will recite and rise a degree by every ayat until he reaches the last thing he has."
Al-Anbari transmitted from Umm Umama al-Himsi that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Whoever is given a third of the Qur'an has been given a third of Prophethood. Whoever is given two-thirds of the Qur'an has been given two-thirds of Prophethood. Whoever recites all of the Qur'an has been given all of Prophethood although he has not received any revelation. On the Day of Rising he will be told, 'Recite and ascend.' He will recite an ayat and rise a degree until he finishes what he knows of the Qur'an. Then he will be told, 'Take,' and he will take. Then he will be asked, 'Do you know what is in your hands? Eternity is in your right hand and bliss in your left.'"
Al-Marwazi reported from 'Ali that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "If someone reads the Qur'an, recites it and memorises it, Allah will admit him to the Garden and let him intercede for all the people of his family for whom the Fire is mandatory." Umm ad-Darda' said, "I visited 'A'isha and asked her, 'What is the excellence of the one who recites the Qur'an over the one who does not recite it among those who enter the Garden?' 'A'isha replied, 'The number of the ayats of the Qur'an is according to the number of degrees of the Garden. No one will enter the Garden better than the one who recites the Qur'an." Abu Muhammad Makki mentioned it. Ibn 'Abbas said, "If anyone recites the Qur'an and follows what is in it, Allah has guided him from misguidance and will protect him on the Day of Rising from an evil reckoning. That is because Allah says, 'All those who follow My guidance will not go astray and will not be miserable.' (20:121)" Ibn 'Abbas said, "Allah has guaranteed that the one who follows the Qur'an will not go astray in this world nor be wretched in the Next." Makki also mentioned that. Al-Layth said, "It was said that mercy does not come quicker to anyone than to the one who listens to the Qur'an according to the words of the Almighty, 'When the Qur'an is recited, listen to it and be silent so that hopefully you will gain mercy.' (7:204)" The word "hopefully" makes it mandatory for Allah.
In the Musnad of Abu Dawud at-Tayalisi, it is reported from 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Anyone who stands [in prayer] for ten ayats will not be written among the heedless. Anyone who stands for a hundred ayats will be written among the obedient. Anyone who stands for a thousand ayats will be written among those with heaps [qintars] of reward." There are many traditions about this, and what we have mentioned is adequate. Allah is the One who grants success.
How to recite the Book of Allah and what is disliked and forbidden in it
Al-Bukhari transmitted that Qatada said, "I asked Anas about the recitation of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he said, 'He would lengthen syllables when he recited, 'In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, Most Merciful.' He would extend the name 'Allah', extend 'ar-Rahman' (the All-Merciful) and extend 'ar-Rahim' (the Most Merciful).
At-Tirmidhi reported that Umm Salama said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to put stops in his recitation. He would say, 'Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds,' and stop, 'the All-Merciful, Most Merciful,' and stop. Then he would recite, 'Master of the Day of Repayment.'" (gharib, Abu Dawud transmitted a similar hadith.)
It is related that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The person with the best voice is the one that I see fears Allah Almighty when he recites." It is related that Ziyad an-Numayri came with the reciters to Anas ibn Malik and was told to recite. He raised his voice and intoned. He had a loud voice and Anas uncovered his face, as he had a black cloth over it, and said, "You! what is this you are doing?" When he saw something he objected to, he would remove the cloth from his face.
It is related that Qays ibn 'Ubbad said, "The Companions of the Messenger of Allah used to dislike raising the voice in dhikr." Those who disliked raising the voice in recitation of the Qur'an included Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab, Sa'id ibn Jubayr, al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, al-Hasan, Ibn Sirin, an-Nakha'i and others. Malik ibn Anas and Ahmad ibn Hanbal also disliked it. All of them disliked raising the voice with the Qur'an and intoning it. It is related that Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab heard 'Umar ibn 'Abdu'l-'Aziz leading the people and he intoned in his recitation. Sa'id sent a message to him saying, "May Allah put you right! Imams should not recite like that." So 'Umar stopped singing. Al-Qasim ibn Muhammad said, "A man recited in the mosque of the Prophet and intoned and al-Qasim objected to that. He said, Allah Almighty says, 'Truly it is a Mighty Book. Falsehood cannot reach it from before it or behind it.' (41:40-41)" Malik related that he was asked about nabr (raising the voice) when reciting the Qur'an in the prayer and he disliked that strongly and objected to the raising of the voice in recitation. Ibn al-Qasim related from him that he was asked about melody in the prayer and he said, "I do not like it." He said, "It is a kind of singing which they do and for which they are paid money."
One group permit raising the voice in the Qur'an and intoning it. That is because, when someone beautifies his voice in it, it settles more deeply in the selves and the hearts listen more to it. They find evidence in the words of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, "Adorn the Qur'an with your voices." Al-Bara' ibn 'Azib transmitted it as did Abu Dawud and an-Nasa'i. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "He who does not sing the Qur'an is not one of us." (Muslim). There is also what Abu Musa told the Prophet: "If I had known that you listened to my recitation, I would have beautified it for you." 'Abdullah ibn Mughaffal said, "In a journey in the year of the Conquest, the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, recited Surat al-Fath on his mount and he used a quavering tone in his recitation." Some of those who believed this were Abu Hanifa and his people, ash-Shafi'i, Ibn al-Mubarak and an-Nadr ibn Shumayl. It is the choice of at-Tabari, Abu'l-Hasan ibn Battal, Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-'Arabi and others.
The first position is sounder because of what we already mentioned and will mention. As for using the first hadith as evidence, it is not apparent. It is an example of the reversal of the normal order and in fact means, "Adorn your voices with the Qur'an." Al-Khattabi said, "That is how more than one of the Imams of hadith have explained it, saying it is reversal."
Al-Khattabi related from al-Bara' that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Adorn the Qur'an with your voices." He said, "It means be melodious in the recitation and employ your voices to do it and take it as a sign and adornment. It is said that it means to encourage people to recite the Qur'an and persist in it. It is related from Abu Hurayra that he heard the Messenger of Allah say, "Adorn your voices with the Qur'an." It is related that 'Umar said, "Make your voices good with the Qur'an."
It is to this sense that the words of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, refer when he said, "The one who does not sing the Qur'an is not one of us," meaning "the one who does not make his voice good with the Qur'an is not one of us." That is how 'Abdullah ibn Abi Mulayka interpreted it. 'Abdu'l-Jabbar ibn al-Wird said that he heard Ibn Abi Mulayka say that 'Abdullah ibn Abi Yazid said, "Abü Lubaba passed us and we followed him until he went into his house. He was a man of shabby appearance. I heard him say, 'I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, "He who does not sing the Qur'an is not one of us."' 'Abdu'l-Jabbar said, "I asked Ibn Abi Mulayka, 'Abu Muhammad, what do you think of the one who does not have a good voice?' He replied, 'He makes it as good as he can.'" (Abu Dawud)
This is also the meaning of Abu Musa's words to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace: "If I had known that you were listening to my recitation, I would have made my voice good in the Qur'an, adorned it and used tartil (slow recitation)." This indicates that he was quick in his recitation with a good natural voice. If he had known that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was listening, he would have extended his recitation and used tartil as he usually did when he recited to the Messenger of Allah. He used to do that in order to increase the beauty of his voice when reciting.
We seek refuge with Allah from interpreting what the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said as meaning that the Qur'an is adorned by voices or anything else! Whoever interprets it in this way has committed something terrible in saying that the Qur'an is in need of someone to adorn it. It is Light, Illumination, and the Highest Adornment for the one who wears its splendour and is illuminated by its light. It is said that the command to adorn means to learn the readings and to adorn them with our voices. That implies: "adorn the recitation with your voices," since "qur'an" means recitation as Allah says, "The recitation (qur'an) of dawn." (17:78) According to this interpretation, it is valid that it simply means "to recite" as we made clear.
It is said that the word understood as "singing" (yataghanna) comes from istighna, "not having any need", not from ghina' (singing). This was the interpretation adopted by Sufyan ibn 'Uyayna and Waki' ibn al-Jarrah. Sufyan related that from Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas. Another point is also related from Sufyan which Ishaq ibn Rahawayh mentioned, which is that it means "to be enriched and without need of other words". This is the interpretation preferred by al-Bukhari when he dealt with the verse, "Is it not enough for them that We have sent down to you the Book which is recited to them?" (29:51) What is meant by being enriched by the Qur'an is not being in need of the history of nations. Interpreters have said that.
It is said that "yataghanna" means to display sorrow. In other words sorrow should appear in the reciter when he reads and recites, and it does not come from "ghunya" (being able to dispense with) because a different form of the verb would have been used for that. A group of scholars believed that, including Imam Ibn Hibban al-Busti. Their evidence was what Mutarrif ibn 'Abdullah ibn ash-Shikhkhir related from his father: "I came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, while he was praying and his chest was heaving like a cauldron from weeping." They said, "This report makes it clear that what is meant is displaying sorrow. This is also supported by what the Imams related from 'Abdullah: "The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'Recite to me.' So I recited Surat an-Nisa' to him until I reached the ayat, 'How will it be when We bring a witness from every nation and bring you as a witness against them?' (4:41) I saw his eyes overflowing with tears."
These are four interpretations and none of them indicate that recitation is done with tunes or quavering voices. Abu Sa'id al-A'rabi said about "He who does not sing the Qur'an is not one of us": "The Arabs were keen on singing and using verse in most of what they said. When the Qur'an was revealed, they wanted to use the Qur'an as their chant instead of singing, and the Prophet said this."
The fifth interpretation is what some claim as evidence for quavering and singing. 'Umar ibn Shayba said, "I told Abu 'Asim about Ibn 'Uyayna's interpretation regarding 'singing' meaning 'beyond need' and he said, 'Ibn 'Uyayna did not do well.'" Ash-Shafi'i was asked about the interpretation of Ibn 'Uyayna and said, "I know better than this. If the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had meant not having need, he would have said it. He said, 'singing' and so we know that he meant singing." At-Tabari said, "What is known in our view is that taghannin is singing in the language of the Arabs, which is using a good voice with quavering." As for those who claim that it means 'being without need', that is not part of the language and poems of the Arabs. We do not know any of the people of knowledge who said that.
In respect of what at-Tabari claimed about taghanna not meaning istighna in Arabic, al-Jawhari stated what we mentioned as did al-Harawi. There is nothing to prevent it meaning istighna, as it is indeed more appropriate to accept that which is it related from a great Companion as Sufyan reported. Ibn Wahb said about Sufyan, "I have not seen anyone with better knowledge of the interpretation of ahadith than Sufyan ibn 'Uyayna."
A sixth interpretation is what has come in the form of an addition in Sahih Muslim which is that Abu Hurayra heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, "Allah does not listen to anything so gladly as He listens to a Prophet with a good voice chanting the Qur'an aloud." At-Tabari said, "If it had been as Ibn 'Uyayna said, there would be no point in mentioning a good voice and aloud." The word "aloud", can be part of the words of the Prophet, Abu Hurayra or someone else. If it is the first, which is unlikely, it is evidence of lack of warbling (tatrib) and quavering because he did not say that. He said, "aloud", meaning so that he and those around him can hear him as the Prophet said to someone he heard raising his voice in the shahada, "O mankind! Be kind to yourselves. You are not calling out to someone dead or absent." So there is no evidence for what they claim. Some of our scholars preferred this interpretation, saying that it is the most likely because the Arabs use the term translated as "singing out" for the one who raises his voice and directs it to someone absent even if it had no tune. He said, "This is the explanation of the Companion, and he knows their manner of speaking far better."
Abu'l-Hasan ibn Battal argues for the school of ash-Shafi'i and says, "The removal of the difficulty in this question is found in what Ibn Abi Shayba reported É from 'Uqba ibn 'Amir who said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Learn the Qur'an, sing it and write it. By the One who has my soul in His hand, it is more likely to escape than a camel from the hobble." Our scholars said, "Even if this hadith has a sound isnad, what is known absolutely and definitively refutes it: the recitation of the Qur'an has reached us mutawatir from many shaykhs, generation after generation back to the noble era and to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and there was no making of tunes or intoning (tatrib) related by them while they go into depth regarding the pronunciation of the letters, madda, idgham, izhar and other types of recitation.
Furthermore, in quavering and intoning, there is putting a hamza on what does not have a hamza and a lengthening of what should not be lengthened. So the single alif will be made into two alifs and one waw into two. That leads to an increase in the Qur'an which is forbidden. If that occurs in a place where there is hamza, they make several hamzas. It may be said that 'Abdullah ibn Mughaffal said that Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, recited on his camel in the Year of the Conquest of Makka (8/630) and quavered, which al-Bukhari mentioned. He said, describing it, "a' a' a'" three times. That may mean ishba' which is lengthening the vowel of the madda in its proper place.
It is also possible that the story of his voice has to do with the rocking of his camel, as it happens to someone in a loud voice when he is riding and his voice tightens and is cut because of the rocking of the camel. Since this is possible, then there is no evidence in it. 'Abdu'l-Ghani ibn Sa'id transmitted from the hadith of Qatada from 'Abdu'r-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr who reported that his father said, "The recitation of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was extended (madd) but there was no quavering (tarji')." Ibn Jurayj reported that Ibn 'Abbas said, "The Messenger of Allah had a mu'adhdhin who intoned. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The adhan should be easy and smooth (i.e. without trilling). If your adhan is not easy and smooth, then do not give the adhan." (ad-Daraqutni) If the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, forbade it in the adhan, it is more likely that he would not permit in the Qur'an which the All-Merciful preserves as Allah says, "It is We who have sent down the Reminder and We will preserve it." (15:9)
This disagreement regarding recitation is a result of the meaning of the Qur'an not being understood due to the repetition of voices and the great amount of quavering. If the matter goes further so that the meaning cannot be understood, then that is agreed to be forbidden. This is done by reciters in the towns of Egypt who recite before kings and at funerals and receive wages and stipends for doing so. Their effort is misguided and their work is ruined. By so doing they allow the alteration of the Book of Allah and it makes it easy for them to be bold against Allah by adding to His revelation what was not in it out of ignorance in their deen, deviation from the Sunna of their Prophet, rejecting the course of the righteous Salaf in respect of that matter, and longing for what shaytan has made seem attractive in what they do. They "suppose that they are doing good" while they repeat their error and play with the Book of Allah. We are returning to Allah, but the Truthful One, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, reported that that would happen and so it is as he, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, reported it would be.
Imam Razin and at-Tirmidhi al-Hakim in Nawadir al-Usul reported the hadith transmitted by Hudhayfa in which the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Recite the Qur'an with the tunes and voices of the Arabs and beware of the tunes of the people of passionate love and the tunes of the People of the two Books [meaning the Torah and Gospel]. After you will come a people who quaver their voices while reciting the Qur'an, as is done in singing and wailing. That will not go beyond their throats. Their hearts are tempted and attracting the hearts of those who admire them are what really concerns them." "Tunes" refers to intoning, quavering the voice and being good in recitation, poetry and singing.
Our scholars state that this is like those of the reciters of our time who do that before prayers and in gatherings, using foreign tunes which the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, forbade. Quavering (tarji') in recitation is to repeat the letters like the Christians do. Tartil in reciting the Qur'an is to recite slowly and deliberately, and to make the letters and vowels clear. It is like the petals of the daisy. It is desirable when reciting the Qur'an. Allah says, "Recite the Qur'an distinctly." (73:4) Umm Salama was asked about the recitation and prayer of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and she said, "What do you have to do with his prayer! He prayed and then slept the amount he prayed. Then he prayed the amount he slept and then he slept the amount he prayed until morning." Then she described his recitation, which was an explanatory recitation, letter by letter. An-Nasa'i, Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi transmitted it as being hasan sahih gharib.
Cautioning the people of the Qur'an and scholars against showing off
Allah Almighty says, "Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him" (4:36) and the Almighty also says, "So let him who hopes to meet his Lord act rightly and not associate anyone in the worship of his Lord." (18:105). Muslim reported from Abu Hurayra that he heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, "The first of people to be judged on the Day of Rising will be a man who was martyred. He will be brought forward and will be informed of the blessings he had and will acknowledge them. Allah will ask, 'What did you do with them?' He will say, 'I fought for You until I was martyred.' Allah will say, 'You lie. Rather you fought so it would be said, "A bold man!" And so it was said.' Then the command will be given and he will be dragged on his face until he is thrown into the Fire.
"There will also be a man who studied knowledge and taught it and recited the Qur'an. He will be brought and informed of his blessings which he will acknowledge. Allah will say, 'What did you do with them?' He will reply, 'I studied knowledge and taught it and I recited the Qur'an for You.' Allah will say, 'You lie. Rather you studied so that it would be said, "A scholar!" and you recited so that it would be said, "He is a reciter!" And so it was said.' Then the command will be given and he will be dragged on his face until he is thrown into the Fire.
"There will also be a man to whom Allah gave a lot of wealth and all sorts of property. He will be brought and informed of his blessings which he will acknowledge. Allah will ask, 'What did you do with them?' He will answer, 'There was no path in which You like spending to be done but that I spent in it for You.' Allah will say, 'You lie. Rather you did it so that it would be said, "He is generous." and so it was said.' Then the command will be given and he will be dragged on his face until he is thrown into the Fire."
In the Raqa'iq, Ibn al-Mubarak transmitted from al-'Abbas ibn 'Abdu'l-Muttalib that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "This deen will be victorious until it passes the sea and until you plunge into the sea with horses in the Way of Allah Almighty. Then there will come a people who recite the Qur'an. When they recite it, they will say, 'Who reads more than us? Who knows more than us?'" Then he turned to his Companions and said, "Do you think that there will be any good in those?" "No," they replied. He said, "Those are from you and those are from this Community and those are the fuel of the Fire." Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi transmitted that the Messenger of Allah said, "Anyone who learns knowledge which should be learned for the sake of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, only to obtain by it goods of this world, will not experience the scent of the Garden on the Day of Rising." At-Tirmidhi said it is a hasan hadith.
It is reported that Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Seek refuge with Allah from the Pit of Sorrow." They asked, "Messenger of Allah, what is the Pit of Sorrow?" He replied, "It is a valley in Hell from which Hell seeks refuge a hundred times a day." He was asked, "Messenger of Allah, who will enter it?" He replied, "Those who recite to show off their actions." (gharib) In the book of Asad ibn Musa it is reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "There is a valley in Hell, and Hell seeks refuge from the evil of that valley seven times a day. In that valley is a pit, and Hell and that valley seek refuge from the evil of that pit. In that pit is a serpent and Hell, the valley and the pit seek refuge with Allah from the evil of that serpent seven times. Allah has prepared it for the wretched among those who know the Qur'an and disobey Allah."
So the one who knows the Qur'an and seeks knowledge should fear Allah regarding himself and act sincerely for Allah. If he does anything which is disliked, he should hasten to repent and begin to show sincerity in his goal and his actions. The one who knows the Qur'an must guard himself more carefully than others, as he has a wage which others do not have. At-Tirmidhi transmitted that Abu'd-Darda' reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Allah revealed in one of the Books to one of the Prophets, 'Warn those who seek understanding for other than the deen and learn for other than action and seek this world by the deeds of the Next world. They will wear sheep-skins in front of people to give the impression of meekness while their hearts are like the hearts of wolves. Their tongues are sweeter than honey while their hearts are more bitter than aloes. They will try to deceive Me and will make light of Me. I will send them trials which will leave even the forbearing bewildered.'"
At-Tabari transmitted in Adab an-Nufus that one of the Companions of the Prophet said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Do not try to deceive Allah. If anyone tries to deceive Allah, Allah will deceive him. It is his own self which is deceived if he were only aware." They asked, "Messenger of Allah, how can someone try to deceive Allah?" He replied, "By doing what Allah has commanded you while you seek other than Him by it. Fear showing-off. It is shirk. The one who shows off will be summoned before witnesses on the Day of Rising by four names which he is called: 'O unbeliever! O loser! O perfidious! O deviant! Your actions are lost and your reward is nullified. You have no share today. Seek your reward from those you acted for, O impostor!"
It is reported from 'Alqama that 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud said, "How will you feel when you are enveloped by a trial in which children grow old and the old become senile and people will act according to an innovated sunna? When any of it is changed, it will be said, 'The sunna has been changed.'" He was asked, "When will that be, Abu 'Abdu'r-Rahman?" He replied, "When your reciters are many and your fuqaha' are few, and your leaders are many and your trusted ones are few, and this world is sought by the actions of the Next World and people learn fiqh for other than the deen." Sufyan ibn 'Uyayna said, "I heard that Ibn 'Abbas said, "If those who know the Qur'an had taken it as it should be taken and in the way that is proper, Allah would love them. But they seek this world by it and so Allah hates them and they are indulgent with people." It is related from Muhammad ibn 'Ali about the words of the Almighty, "They will be bundled headfirst into it, they and the misled" (26:94), "This refers to people who describe the truth and justice with their tongues and then oppose it by espousing something other than that."
What the one who knows the Qur'an must do and not neglect to do
The first thing is to be sincere in seeking it for Allah as we mentioned. You should make yourself recite the Qur'an night and day, in the prayer or outside the prayer, so that you do not forget it. Muslim transmitted from Ibn 'Umar that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The example of the one who knows the Qur'an is like the one who has hobbled camels. If he takes care of them, he will keep them. If he releases them, they will go off. When the one who knows the Qur'an stands and recites it night and day, he remembers it. If he does not do that, he forgets it." So someone who knows Qur'an must praise Allah, be thankful for His blessing, remember Him, rely on Him, seek His help, desire Him and cling to Him. He must remember death and prepare for it. He should fear his wrong actions and hope for his Lord's pardon. His fear when his health is good should be stronger since he does not know what his seal will be. When he is close to dying, his hope should be stronger in himself because of his good opinion of Allah. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "None of you should die except with a good opinion of Allah." This means you should think that He will have mercy on you and forgive you.
He should know the people of his time, preserve himself from the ruler, and strive to save himself and save his life, having to hand what he can of the goods of this world, striving for himself in that as much as he can. His greatest concern should be scrupulousness in his deen, fearfulness of Allah and watchful awareness of Him in what He commands and forbids. Ibn Mas'ud said, "The one who recites the Qur'an should be known by his nights when people are asleep and his days when people are awake, his weeping when people laugh, his silence when people delve into improper matters, his humility when they are arrogant and his sorrow when they are happy." 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar said, "The one who knows the Qur'an should not delve with those who delve, nor be ignorant with the ignorant, but he should pardon and overlook by the right of the Qur'an because inside of him are the words of Allah Almighty. He must protect himself from doubtful paths and laugh little and speak little in the gatherings of Qur'an and elsewhere concerning anything in which there is no benefit. He must be forbearing and grave.
He should be humble to the poor and avoid arrogance and vanity. He should withdraw from this world and its people if he fears temptation for himself, and should abandon argumentation and dispute. He should make an effort to be kind and show proper adab. He should be with those from whose evil he is safe, whose good he hopes for and from whose injury he is safe. He should not listen to those who slander in his presence and should keep the company of those who lead him to what is good and direct him to truthfulness and noble character, those who adorn him and do not sully him.
He must learn the rulings of the Qur'an and understand what Allah means and what He obliges. Then he will benefit from what he reads and act by what he recites. How vile is the one who knows the Qur'an and recites its obligations and rulings by heart but does not understand what he recites. How can the one who does not understand what it means act? How ugly it is that he is asked about the fiqh of what he recites but does not know it. The example of someone with a state like this is only like "a donkey who carries volumes" (62:5).
He should know the Makkan from the Madinan suras so that by that he can distinguish between what Allah told His slaves at the beginning of Islam and what was recommended for them at the end, what He obliged on them at the beginning of Islam and those obligations He added to it at the end. The Madinan abrogates the Makkan in most of the Qur'an. It is not possible for the Makkan to abrogate the Madinan because the abrogated was revealed before the abrogating. Part of his perfection is to know the i'rab (inflection/grammar) and the unusual. That is part of what will make it easy for him to know what he reads and will remove doubt from him in what he recites.
At-Tabari said, "I heard al-Jarmi say, "For thirty years, I have been giving people fatwas in fiqh taken from the book of Sibuwayh [i.e. based on grammar]." Muhammad ibn Yazid said, "That was because Abu 'Umar al-Jarmi knew ahadith. When he learned the book of Sibuwayh, he learned fiqh in hadith since it is from the book of Sibuwayh that he learned investigation and tafsir. Then he looked into the sunnas which are firmly transmitted from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. It is by means of them that the seeker reaches what Allah means in His Book and that opens up for him the judgements of the Qur'an. Ad-Dahhak said about the words of the Almighty, 'Be people of the Lord because of your knowledge of the Book.' (3:79), 'It is a duty for whoever learns the Qur'an to be a faqih.'"
Ibn Abi'l-Hawari mentioned, "A group of us went to FuÆayl ibn 'Iyad in 185 AH and stopped at his door, but he did not give us permission to enter. One of the people said, 'If he comes out for anything, he will come out to recitation of the Qur'an.' So we ordered a reciter to recite and he appeared to us from a window. We said, 'Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah.' He said, 'And peace upon you.' We asked, 'How are you, Abu 'Ali?' He replied, 'I am in well-being from Allah and harm from you. What you are doing is something new in Islam. We belong to Allah and are returning to Him! This is not how we seek knowledge! We used to go to the shaykhs and would not see ourselves worthy of sitting with them. We sat below them and eavesdropped. When a hadith was given, we would ask them to repeat it and we would retain it. You seek knowledge with ignorance. You waste the Book of Allah. If you had sought the Book of Allah, you would have found in it healing for what you want.' We said, 'We have studied the Qur'an.' He said, 'Your study of the Qur'an is work enough for your lives and the lives of your children!' We asked, 'How, Abu 'Ali?' He replied, 'You will not learn the Qur'an until you know its i'rab, its muhkam from its mutashabih, and its abrogating from its abrogated. When you know that, then you will have no need of the words of Fudayl and Ibn 'Uyayna.' Then he said, 'I seek refuge with Allah, the All-Hearing, All-Knowing from the Accursed Shaytan. In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful. "O mankind! An admonition has come to you from your Lord and also healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers. Say: 'It is the favour of Allah and His mercy that should be the cause of their rejoicing. That is better than anything they accumulate.'"' (10:57-58)"
When the reader of the Qur'an obtains these ranks, he will be fluent in the Qur'an and know the Discrimination. He will be close to the one who brings him close to it. He will not benefit from any of what we have mentioned until he has a sincere intention for Allah when he seeks it, or continues to have a sincere intention after learning it, as was already stated. A seeker of knowledge may begin by desiring reputation and honour in the deen. Then his understanding of knowledge continues until it is clear to him that he has erred in his belief, and so he repents of that and makes his intention sincere for Allah. He benefits from that and improves his state. Al-Hasan said, "We used to seek knowledge for this world and it dragged us to the Next World." Sufyan ath-Thawri said that. Habib ibn Abi Thabit said, "We sought this matter and we had no intention in it. The intention came afterwards."
The syntax of the Qur'an, learning it and studying it and the reward for the one who recites the Qur'an with proper inflections
Al-Anbari said, "The Prophet, his Companions and their Followers all mention the excellence of proper understanding of the syntax of the Qur'an and the encouragement to learn it and censure and dislike poor grammatical understanding. This obliges the reciters of the Qur'an to strive to learn it.
"One aspect of that is in what is related from Abu Hurayra who reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Use the proper syntax in the Arabic of the Qur'an and search out its unusual words." It is reported from Ibn 'Umar that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "If someone recites the Qur'an without its correct grammar, an angel is entrusted to him to write for him, as is revealed, ten good deeds for every letter. When he uses correct grammar for some of it and fails to do so for some of it, two angels are entrusted who write down every letter with twenty good deeds. If he inflects it correctly, four angels are entrusted to him to write down seventy good deeds for every letter." Ad-Dahhak reported that 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud said, "Recite the Qur'an well and adorn it with your voices and employ its correct syntax. It is Arabic and Allah loves the correct syntax to be employed." Mujahid reported that Ibn 'Umar said, "Use correct syntax in the Qur'an."
Abu Bakr and 'Umar said, "We prefer some syntax of the Qur'an to simply memorising its letters." Ash-Sha'bi reported that 'Umar said, "Anyone who recites the Qur'an with its syntax has the reward of a martyr with Allah." Makhul said, "We were told that anyone who recites with correct syntax has double the reward of someone who recites without it.' Ibn 'Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Love the Arabs for three reasons: because I am an Arab, the Qur'an is in Arabic and the language of the people of the Garden will be Arabic." Abu Æamza said, "Al-Hasan was asked about people studying Arabic and he said, 'They do well. They learn the language of their Prophet.'" Al-Æasan was told, "We have an imam who uses ungrammatical Arabic." He said, "Dismiss him."
Ibn Abi Mulayka said, "A bedouin arrived in Madina in the time of 'Umar ibn al-Khattab and asked, 'Who will recite some of what was revealed to Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace?' A man recited Surat at-Tawba to him. He said, 'Allah is free of the idolaters and His Messenger' using the genitive for Messenger (rasulihi).' The bedouin said, 'Allah is free of His Messenger? If Allah is free of His Messenger, we are more free of him.' 'Umar heard what the bedouin had said so he summoned him and said, 'Bedouin, are you free of the Messenger of Allah?' He replied, 'Amir al-Mu'minin, I came to Madina with no knowledge of the Qur'an. I asked someone to recite it to me and he recited this Sura at-Tawba and said, "Allah is free of the idolaters and His Messenger." So I said, "Allah is free of His Messenger? If Allah is free of His Messenger, we are more free of him."' 'Umar said, 'That is not how it is, bedouin.' He said, 'How is it then, Amir al-Mu'minun?' He said, 'Allah is free of the idolaters, as is His Messenger (rasuluhu).' The bedouin said, 'We, by Allah, are more free of what Allah and His Messenger are free of!' So 'Umar ibn al-Khattab commanded that only those who knew proper grammar should recite to people and he commanded Abu'l-Aswad to set out the grammar."
'Ali ibn al-Ja'd reported that he heard Shu'ba say, "The metaphor of someone who knows the hadith but does not know Arabic is that of a donkey which has a nosebag with no fodder in it." Hammad ibn Salama said, "The one who seeks hadith and does not learn grammar – or Arabic – is like a donkey who has a nosebag in which there is no barley." Ibn 'Atiyya said, "The syntax of the Qur'an is a basic principle in the Shari'a because it is that by which its meanings, which are the Shari'a, are established."
Ibn al-Anbari said, "The Companions of the Prophet and their Followers provide evidence for using language and poetry to explain unusual and problematic words in the Qur'an and that demonstrates the soundness of the school of the grammarians respecting that and the falsity of those who deny that. It is reported from 'Ikrima that Ibn 'Abbas said, "When you ask me about the unusual words of Allah, look for them in poetry. Poetry is the lexicon of the Arabs." Sa'id ibn Jubayr and Yusuf ibn Mihran were heard to mention that they heard Ibn 'Abbas being asked about something in the Qur'an and he replied. "It means such and such. Have you not heard the poet say such-and-such?"
What is reported about the excellence of tafsir of the Qur'an and those who do it
Our scholars say that part of what is transmitted from the Companions and Followers about the excellence of tafsir is that 'Ali ibn Abi Talib mentioned Jabir ibn 'Abdullah and described him as having knowledge. A man said to him, "May I be your ransom! You describe Jabir as having knowledge when you are who are you are!" He said, "He knew the tafsir of the words of Allah, 'He who has imposed the Qur'an upon you will most certainly bring you back home again.' (28:85)" Mujahid said, "The dearest of creatures to Allah Almighty is the one who has the most knowledge of what is revealed." Al-Hasan said, "Allah has not revealed an ayat but that He wants people to know about what it was revealed for and what it means." Ash-Sha'bi said, "Masruq travelled to Basra for the tafsir of an ayat and was told that the one who could explain it had travelled to Syria. So he made preparations and travelled to Syria to learn its tafsir."
'Ikrima said about the words of the Almighty, "If anyone leaves his home, making hijra to Allah and His Messenger" (4:99), "I sought for the name of this man 'who left his home, emigrating for Allah and His Messenger' for fourteen years until I found him." Ibn 'Abdu'l-Barr said that it was Damra ibn Habib. Ibn 'Abbas said, "I remained for two years wanting to ask 'Umar about the two women who helped each other against the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and only awe of him prevented me from asking. Finally I asked him and he replied that it was Hafsa and 'A'isha." Iyas ibn Mu'awiya said, "The metaphor of those who recite the Qur'an without knowing its tafsir is that of some people to whom a letter comes from their king at night when they have no lamp. They are alarmed, not knowing what the letter contains. The metaphor of the one who knows the tafsir is that of a man who brings them a lamp so that they can read what the letter says."
What is reported about the one who is a bearer of the Qur'an, who he is and those who are hostile to him
Abu 'Umar said, "It is related by various paths that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'Part of esteem for Allah is honouring three: a just ruler, a Muslim with white hair and a bearer of the Qur'an who is neither excessive in it nor turns away from it." Abu 'Umar said that the bearers of the Qur'an are those who know its rulings, its lawful and unlawful and act by what it contains. Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The Qur'an is better than everything. Whoever respects the Qur'an has respected Allah. Whoever makes light of the Qur'an has made light of the right of Allah Almighty. The bearers of the Qur'an are those who are encircled by the mercy of Allah, exalting the Word of Allah, touched by the light of Allah. Allah befriends whoever befriends them and Allah is hostile to whoever is hostile to them. Such people have made light of the right of Allah."
The respect and esteem for the Qur'an which is mandatory for someone who recites and bears the Qur'an
In Nawadir al-Usul, at-Tirmidhi al-Hakim said, "Part of respect for the Qur'an is to only touch it when pure. Part of respect for it is to recite it in a state of purity. Part of respect for it is to use the tooth-stick (siwak), clean between the teeth and make the mouth clean as the mouth is its pathway. Yazid ibn Abi Malik said, 'Your mouths are the pathways of the Qur'an, so purify and clean them as much as you can.'
"Part of respect for it is to dress as you would dress to visit the amir because you are speaking privately. Part of respect for it is to face qibla to recite it. When Abu'l-'Aliyya recited he would put on a turban, dress, wear a mantle and face qibla. Part of respect for it is to rinse your mouth when you spit. Shu'ba reported from Abu Hamza from Ibn 'Abbas that he had a spittoon in front of him and when he spat, he would rinse his mouth and then begin recitation. Whenever he spat, he rinsed. Part of respect for it is that when you yawn, you should stop reciting, because when one recites, one is addressing and conversing with the Lord. Yawning is from Shaytan. Mujahid said, 'When you yawn while reciting the Qur'an, stop reciting out of respect until you stop yawning.' 'Ikrima said, 'By that he meant to respect the Qur'an.'
"Part of respect for it is to seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Shaytan when starting to recite it. You should say 'In the Name of Allah, the All- Merciful, the Most Merciful' when beginning to recite it from the first sura or from wherever you start. Part of respect for it is that, when you begin to recite it, you should not stop for a time to speak to people without need. Part of respect for it is that you should not stop reciting it when someone interrupts you by speaking to you and mix recitation with your reply. That is because when you do that, you remove the effectiveness of the formula of seeking refuge which you uttered at the beginning. Part of respect for it is to recite it deliberately, slowly and carefully.
"Part of respect for it is to deploy your mind and intelligence in understanding what is addressed to you. Part of respect for it is to stop at an ayat of promise and have hope in Allah and ask Him for His bounty, and to stop at an ayat of warning and seek refuge with Allah from the threat. Part of respect for it is to stop at its metaphors and visualise them. Part of respect for it is to investigate its unusual words. Part of respect for it is to give every letter its due so that the words are fully articulated and then you will receive ten good deeds for every letter.
"Part of respect for it is to end its recitation by proclaiming the truthfulness of its Lord and testifying to its delivery by His Messenger and testifying that that is true. You say, 'Our Lord has spoken the Truth and His Messengers conveyed it and we testify to that. O Allah, make us among the witnesses to the Truth, establishing justice.' Then you make supplication.
"Part of respect for it is that when you recite, you do not take ayats piecemeal from each sura and recite them. It is related to us that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, passed by Bilal who was reciting a little from each sura and he commanded him to recite the entire sura.
"Part of respect for it is that when you put down a copy of the Qur'an, you do not leave it open and do you not put any other book on top of it. It should always be on top of any other books, be they books of knowledge or other books. Part of respect for it is that when you recite, you put it in your lap or on top of something in front of you and do not put it on the ground. Part of respect for it is not to erase the board it is written on with spit, but rather use water. Part of respect for it is that when it is washed with water you avoid impurities from various places and in the places where it is put. That washing is respect. Some of the Salaf before us used to use that water to heal themselves. Part of of respect for it is to not take a page when it is worn out and brittle out of fear for the writing. That is great coarseness. It should be erased with water.
"Part of respect for it is to not let a day pass without looking at least once at the Qur'an. Abu Musa used to say, 'I am ashamed not to look once a day at the contract of my Lord.' Part of respect for it to give the eyes their share of it. The eye leads to the self. Between the self and the breast is a veil and the Qur'an is in the breast. When you recite it by heart the ear listens and conveys it to the self. When you look at its writing, the eye and the ear both convey it. That is more likely to achieve the conveyance. Then the eye has its share just as the ear does. Zayd ibn Aslam reported from 'Ata' ibn Yasar from Abu Sa'id al-Khudri that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ''Give the eyes their portion of worship.' They asked. 'Messenger of Allah, what is their portion of worship?' He replied, 'To look at the Qur'an and reflect on it and study its wonders.' Makhul reported from 'Ubada ibn as-Samit that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'The best worship of my community is to read the Qur'an with the eyes.'
"Part of respect for it is not to resort to it when offered worldly goods. It is reported É that Ibrahim [an-Nakha'i] used to dislike to resort to any of the Qur'an when he was offered worldly goods. That is like saying to a man who comes to you, 'You have arrived at the pre-ordained time, Musa,' (20:40) and like saying, 'Eat and drink with relish for what you did before in days gone by' (69:24) when food is served, and other such things. Part of respect for it is not to say Surat an-Nahl, Surat al-Baqara and Surat an-Nisa', but to say, 'The sura in which such-and-such is mentioned.' (This, however, is contrary to the words of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, "If anyone recites the two ayats from the end of Surat al-Baqara at night, they will be enough for him.") (al-Bukhari and Muslim from 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud)
"Part of respect for it is to not invert it as some teachers of children do in order to show off cleverness and fluency. That is opposition to Allah. Part of respect for it is to not deepen its recitation as if done by those obstinate innovaters who intensify the pronunciation of the hamza and pronounce words with affectation. That is an innovation which Shaytan suggested to them which they accepted. Part of respect for it is not to recite it using musical tunes like the tunes of the people of depravity nor with the quavering of the Christians nor chanting of the monks. All of that is deviation.
"Part of respect for it is to make its letters bold. Abu Hukayma reported that he used to copy out Qur'an in Kufa. 'Ali passed by him, inspected his writing and ordered, 'Make your pen thicker.' 'So I took the pen and cut off part of it and then wrote while 'Ali was standing and looking at my writing. He said, 'Like that. Give light to it as Allah gave it light."'
"Part of respect for it is not to compete in loudness in recitation so that it becomes spoiled for him and he hates what he hears and it becomes like a contest. Part of respect for it is not to argue or quarrel about its recitations or say to a person, 'It is not like that.' Perhaps that recitation is a sound and permitted one and then you would be denying the Book of Allah.
"Part of respect for it is not to recite it in the market or in places of clamour, worthless talk, and the places where fools congegrate. Do you not see that Allah Almighty mentioned the slaves of the All-Merciful and praised them because, when they pass by worthless talk, they pass by it with dignity? (cf. 25:72) This is about simply passing by those engaged in worthless talk. So how could they recite the Qur'an in the midst of worthless talk and a gathering of fools?
"Part of respect for it is not to use it as pillow or lean on it or throw it to someone when he wants it to be passed to him.
"Part of respect for it is not to make it small. É It is reported that 'Ali said, 'Do not make the Qur'an small.' It is related that 'Umar ibn al-Khattab saw a small Qur'an in the hand of a man and asked, 'Who wrote it?' 'I did,' he replied, and then 'Umar struck him with his whip and said, 'Esteem the Qur'an.' It is related that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, forbade people to say, 'a little mosque or a little Qur'an' (using the diminutive).
"Part of respect for it is not to adorn it with gold or write it in gold so that it is mixed with the adornment of this world. Mughira related that Ibrahim disliked adorning the Qur'an or writing it with gold or putting marks at the beginning of ayats or making it small. It is related from Abu'd-Darda' that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'When you adorn your mosque and decorate your Qur'an, then ruin is upon you.' When Ibn 'Abbas saw a Qur'an adorned with silver he said, 'You tempt the thief with it. Its adornment is inside it.'
"Part of respect for it is that it should not be written on the ground or on a wall as is done in modern mosques.É It is reported that 'Umar ibn 'Abdu'l-'Aziz said, 'The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, passed by some writing on the ground and said to a lad of the tribe of Hudhayl, 'What is this?' He replied, 'It is from the Book of Allah. A Jew wrote it.' He said, 'May Allah curse the one who did this. Only put the Book of Allah in its proper place.' Muhammad ibn az-Zubayr said that 'Umar ibn 'Abdu'l-'Aziz saw a son of his writing the Qur'an on a wall and beat him.
"Part of respect for it is that when its writing is washed for treating an illness, it should not be poured on a rubbish heap or in a place of impurity or in a place where people walk, but in a place where people do not walk, or a hole should be dug in a pure place so that it can be poured into it, or it can be poured into a large river.
"Part of respect for it is that, whenever someone completes the recitation of the entire Qur'an, he recites some of the beginning so that it does not have the form of something abandoned. That is why when the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, finished reciting, he would recite about five ayats from the beginning so that it would not be in an abandoned form. Ibn 'Abbas said that a man came and asked, 'Messenger of Allah, which action is best?' He replied, 'You must have the embarking state.' 'What is the embarking state?' he asked. He replied, ''The one with the Qur'an who starts from its beginning until he reaches its end and then starts at the beginning. Whenever he alights, he immediately travels on.'
It is recommended to gather your family when you finish the Qur'an. Al-Anbari reported É from Qatada that when Anas ibn Malik finished reciting the Qur'an, he would gather his family and make supplication. It is reported that when Mujahid, 'Abda ibn Abi Lubaba and various people were about to complete the recitation, they would summon people since mercy descends at the conclusion of the Qur'an. It is reported that Ibrahim at-Taymi said, "When someone finishes the Qur'an at the beginning of the day, the angels bless him until evening. When someone finishes the Qur'an at the beginning of the night, the angels bless him until morning." He said, "They recommended that it should be finished at the beginning of the night or at the beginning of the day."
"Part of respect for it is that you should not write the refuge suras from it and then enter the lavatory unless they are inside a covering of leather or silver or something else. Then it is as if it were inside his breast.
"Part of respect for it is that when you write it out [for medicinal purposes] and then drink it, you should say the Name of Allah for every breath and have a very strong intention. Allah will give to you according to your intention. Mujahid said, 'There is no harm in writing out the Qur'an and then having a sick person drink it.' Abu Ja'far said, 'If someone has hardness in his heart, he should write 'Yasin' on a goblet with saffron and drink it.'
"Part of respect for it is not to say, 'What a short sura!' Abu'l-'Aliyya disliked saying 'what a short or large sura'. When he heard someone say that, he would retort, 'You are smaller than it. All of the Qur'an is immense.'" Abu Dawud related the contrary of this from the hadith of 'Amr ibn Shu'ayb from his grandfather which states that one can use those terms. 'Amr said, "No small or large sura is part of the Mufassal."
What is reported regarding threats against engaging in tafsir of the Qur'an by means of opinion (ra'y) or being bold in that, and the ranks of the commentators
It is related that 'A'isha said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, did not explain the Book of Allah except for some ayats which Jibril taught him." Ibn 'Atiyya said, "The meaning of this hadith is that it is about the unseen things of the Qur'an, explaining what is ambivalent (mujmal) and the like to which there is no way to uncover except with Allah's help. Part of that are those unseen matters which Allah has not made known, like the time of the Rising and the number of blasts on the Trumpet and the order of the creation of the heavens and the earth.
At-Tirmidhi reported from Ibn 'Abbas that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Fear attributing words to me which you do not know. Anyone who deliberately tells a lie regarding me will take his seat in the Fire. Anyone who speaks about the Qur'an by own opinion, should take his seat in the Fire." It is also reported from Jundub that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Anyone who speaks on the Qur'an by his own opinion and is right is still wrong." This is a gharib hadith in Abu Dawud and one of its transmitters is questionable. Razin added, "Whoever speaks by his opinion and errs has disbelieved."
Al-Anbari said in the Kitab ar-Radd, "There are two interpretations of the hadith of Ibn 'Abbas. One is that someone who speaks on problematic things (mushkil) in the Qur'an by what he does not know, differing from the position of the first Companions and Followers, exposes himself to the anger of Allah. The second, which is the firmer and sounder of the two, is that when someone says something about the Qur'an knowing the truth to be different, he should take his seat in the Fire."
Regarding the hadith of Jundub, some of the people of knowledge say that "opinion" here means "whim". Whoever speaks about the Qur'an according to his own whims and does not take from the Imams of the Salaf and happens to be right is still wrong since he has judged the Qur'an by something whose basis is not recognised and is not based on the position of those with expertise in traditions and transmission. Ibn 'Atiyya says, "The meaning of this is that a man is asked about a meaning of the Book of Allah and hurries to explain it by his own opinion without looking at what the scholars have said and what the rules of knowledge like syntax and usul demand." Not included is the explanation of grammarians and linguists of its grammar and the fuqaha' of its meaning where each speaks by his ijtihad based on the rules of his own branch of knowledge and investigation."
This is sound and more than one scholar prefers it. The one who speaks according to what pops into his imagination and occurs to his mind without seeking evidence for it in the fundamental principles errs. Anyone who derives its meanings by basing himself on the fundamental principles which are agreed upon is praised.
Some scholars said that tafsir is dependant on oral transmission since Allah says, "If you have a dispute about something, refer it back to Allah and His Messenger." (4:59) This is false because the prohibition against explaining the Qur'an is either that what is desired is to confine oneself to transmission and not investigate, or it is something else. It is false that what is meant is that no one should say anything about the Qur'an other than what he has heard. The Companions recited the Qur'an and differed about its interpretation in some cases. Not all of what they said was what they heard from the Prophet. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, made supplication for Ibn 'Abbas and said, "O Allah, give him understanding in the deen and teach him interpretation." If interpretation is confined to Revelation and Prophetic reports, what is the point of singling him out for that? This is clear and undoubted.
The prohibition against tafsir applies to two instances. The first is when the interpreter has opinion about something on the basis of his nature and passion and, therefore, interprets the Qur'an according to his opinion and passion in an effort to justify his position. If it had not been for that opinion and passion, that meaning about the Qur'an would not have occurred to him. This can sometimes be conscious, as in the case of someone who uses some ayats of the Qur'an to prove the validity of an innovation, when he knows that that is not what is meant by the ayat, but his aim is to confuse his opponent. Sometimes it is done in ignorance which may happen when an ayat can be applied in various ways and his understanding inclines to the meaning which coincides with his position. He prefers that interpretation because of his opinion and passion and so he interprets it according to his own opinion. If it had not been for his opinion, he would not preferred that meaning.
Sometimes someone has a sound purpose and seeks evidence for it in the Qur'an and uses what he knows of it as evidence for what he wants, like the one who calls people to strive against a hard heart. Allah says, "Go to Pharaoh. He has overstepped the bounds." (20:23) He points to his heart and suggests that that is what is meant by 'Pharaoh' in this ayat. This kind of interpretation is used by some preachers with good motives to make their words effective and encourage their listeners. This is forbidden because it is unacceptable linguistic analogy and is not permissible. The esoterists use the same method to false purposes with the goal of deluding people and calling them to their false beliefs. They use the Qur'an according to their opinion and position in matters that they absolutely know are not meant. This is one of the aspects of tafsir that is forbidden.
The second instance is when an interpreter hastens to explain the Qur'an according to the literal meaning of the Arabic without the help of transmission about what the unusual words of the Qur'an mean and what has been passed down about the ambiguous and interchangeable words, conciseness, elision, concealment and reversal of order it contains. Someone who does not have a firm grasp of the literal tafsir and then sets out to derive meanings by simple understanding of Arabic often errs and joins the company of those who interpret the Qur'an according to their own opinions.
Transmission is necessary first of all in the primary tafsir so that one avoids error, and then after that one employs understanding and deduction to expand on it. The unusual words which are only understood via transmission are numerous, and one cannot hope to reach the inward before having a firm grasp of the outward. Do you not see that the Almighty says, "We gave Thamud the camel as a visible sign (mubsira) and then they mistreated her" (17:59)? It means a visible sign and they wronged themselves by killing it. Someone who looks at the literal Arabic might think that it means that the camel could see (mubsira) and therefore not know what they did wrong and how they wronged others and themselves. This is part of elision and concealment. There are many such examples in the Qur'an. In cases other than these two, there is no prohibition against interpretation, and Allah knows best.
Ibn 'Atiyya said, "Most of the righteous Salaf like Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab, 'Amir ash-Sha'bi and others used to be overawed at the prospect of making interpretation of the Qur'an and would refrain from it out of scrupulousness and cautiousness for themselves in spite of their perfection and precedence." Al-Anbari said, "The imams of the Salaf were too scrupulous to explain the problematic parts of the Qur'an. One supposed that his tafsir might not coincide with what Allah meant and so refrained from speaking. Another feared that he would become an imam in tafsir and people might follow his method, when he might hesitate to explain a single letter according to his own opinion or to err about it and then his follower might say, 'My imam in the tafsir of the Qur'an by opinion is so-and-so, the imam of the Salaf.' Ibn Abi Mulayka said, 'Abu Bakr as-Siddiq was asked about the tafsir of a letter of the Qur'an and said, "Which heaven will cover me and which earth will bear me? Where will I go? What will I do if I say about a letter of the Book of Allah other than what Allah Almighty meant?"
Ibn 'Atiyya said, "Several of the Salaf used to explain the Qur'an and made the Muslims continue in that. As for the beginning of the commentators on whom they relied, there was 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, and he was followed by 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas, who devoted himself to the subject and perfected it. He was followed by scholars like Mujahid, Sa'id ibn Jubayr and others. More is transmitted from him in that than is retained from 'Ali. Ibn 'Abbas said, 'What I took of tafsir of the Qur'an was from 'Ali ibn Abi Talib.' 'Ali used to praise the tafsir of Ibn 'Abbas and encouraged people to take it from him. Ibn 'Abbas used to say about himself, 'An excellent translator of the Qur'an is 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas.' 'Ali said about him, 'It is as if Ibn 'Abbas looks at the unseen through a fine curtain.'"
He was followed by 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, Ubayy ibn Ka'b, Zayd ibn Thabit, and 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'As. All that is taken from the Companions has excellent preference because they witnessed the revelation and its descent in their language. 'Amir ibn Wathila said, "I saw 'Ali ibn Abi Talib speaking. I heard him say in his khutba, 'Ask me. By Allah, you will not ask me about anything that will happen until the Day of Rising but that I will tell you about it. Ask me about the Book of Allah. By Allah, there is no ayat but that I know whether it was revealed at night or in the day, revealed on flat ground or on a mountain.'" Ibn al-Kawwa' rose and asked about Surat adh-Dhariyat (51).
'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud said, "If I knew of anyone with more knowledge of the Book of Allah than me, who could be reached by mounts, I would go to him." A man asked him, "Have you not met 'Ali ibn Abi Talib?" 'Yes," he replied, "I have met him." Masruq said, "I found some of the Companions of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, like pools which water one person, some like pools which water two, and some such that if all people had come to it, it would satisfy them. 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud was one those pools."
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The most merciful to my community is Abu Bakr, the strongest in the deen of Allah is 'Umar, the most truly modest is 'Uthman, the one with the most knowledge of judgement is 'Ali, and the one with most knowledge of the shares of inheritance is Zayd. The one with the most recitation of the Book of Allah is Ubayy ibn Ka'b. The one with the most knowledge of the lawful and unlawful is Mu'adh ibn Jabal. The trustworthy representative of this community is Abu 'Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah. Abu Hurayra is a vessel of knowledge and Salman is a sea of knowledge which is not perceived. Vegetation has not shaded nor has the earth supported anyone with a more truthful tongue than Abu Dharr."
Ibn 'Atiyya said, "The prominent Followers (Tabi'un) included al-Hasan al-Basri, Mujahid, Sa'id ibn Jubayr and 'Alqama. Mujahid studied recitation with Ibn 'Abbas coupled with understanding the meaning, stopping at every ayat. 'Ikrima and ad-Dahhak followed them. Even if ad-Dahhak did not meet Ibn 'Abbas, he studied with Ibn Jubayr. As for as-Suddi, 'Æmir ash-Sha'bi attacked him and Abu Salih because he thought that they fell short in investigation."
Then the tafsir was transmitted by just men of every generation, as the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "This knowledge will be carried by just men of every generation, discarding from it the deviation of the excessive, the ascriptions of the falsifiers and the interpretation of the ignorant." (Abu 'Umar and others related it). Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi said, "This testimony from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, shows that Qur'anic interpreters are scholars of the deen and imams of the Muslims because they guard the Shari'a against deviation and the ascription of falsehood and refute the interpretation of ignorant fools. One must consult them and rely on them in the business of the deen."
The Book being explained by the Sunna, and what has been transmitted about that
Allah says, "And We have sent down the Reminder to you so that you can make clear to mankind what has been sent down to them" (16:44), and "Those who oppose his command should beware of a testing trial coming to them or a painful punishment striking them" (24:59) and "Truly you are guiding to a Straight Path." (42:49) It is made obligatory to obey the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in more than one ayat of the Book and that is connected to obeying Allah, Allah says, "Whatever the Messenger gives you you should accept and whatever He forbids you you should forgo." (59:7) Ibn 'Abdu'l-Barr mentioned that 'Abdu'r-Rahman ibn Yazid saw a muhrim wearing his ordinary clothes and he forbade him to do that. The man said to him, "Bring me an ayat from the Book of Allah which removes my clothes." He recited to him, "Whatever the Messenger gives you you should accept and whatever He forbids you you should forgo." (59:7) Hisham ibn Hujayr said, "Tawus prayed two rak'ats after 'Asr and Ibn 'Abbas said, 'Stop performing them.'' He said, 'It is only forbidden to take them as a sunna.' Ibn 'Abbas said, 'The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, forbade praying after 'Asr. I do not how whether you will be punished or rewarded for them because Allah says, "When Allah and His Messenger have decided a thing it is not for any believing man or believing woman to have a choice about it." (33:36)'"
Abu Dawud related from al-Miqdam ibn Ma'dikarib that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "I was given the Book and its like with it. It will not be long before a satiated man on his throne declares, 'This Qur'an is all you need. Make lawful whatever you find lawful in it and make unlawful whatever you find unlawful in it.' But domestic donkeys are not lawful for you nor is eating any beast of prey with fangs nor is something dropped by someone who has a treaty with you until its owner declares himself free of it. If someone stops off with some people, they must give him hospitality. If they do not, he can legally pursue them for the equivalent cost of his due hospitality."
Al-Khattabi said that the words, "I was given the Book and its like with it," can be interpreted in two ways. One is that it means he was given hidden revelation which is not recited in the same way that he was given the outward recited part. The second is that he was given the Book as recited revelation and was given clarification like it, meaning permission to explain what was in the Book, making it general and specific, adding to it and legislating what is in it. Therefore it is mandatory to act by that and to accept it like the outward recited Qur'an. The hadith is a warning against opposing those established sunan which are not in the Qur'an, as was done by the Kharijites and Rafidites. They attached themselves to the literal text of the Qur'an and abandoned the sunnas which contain the clarification of the Book. This hadith contains evidence that there is no need to compare the hadith with the Book. Whatever is confirmed as being from the Prophet is evidence in itself. As for what some relate, "When a hadith comes to you, compare it with the Book. If it agrees with it, take it. Otherwise, discard it," it is a baseless false hadith.
The clarification is of two types: a general clarification of the Book, like clarifying the five prayers, their times, prostration, ruku' and all their rulings, the amount and time of zakat and the types of property from which it is taken, and the details the practices of hajj. When the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, performed the hajj with the people, he said, "Take your practices from me," and he said, "Pray as you saw me praying." (al-Bukhari) 'Imran ibn Husayn said to a man, "You stupid man! Do you find Dhuhr in the Book of Allah as four rak'ats in which recitation is not aloud!" Then he enumerated for him the prayer, zakat and the like and then said, "Do you find this explained in the Book of Allah? The Book of Allah Almighty did not define this while the Sunna explains it!"
Al-Awza'i reported that Hassan ibn 'Atiyya said, "Revelation descended on the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and Jibril brought him the Sunna which explains that." É Al-Awza'i also reported that Makhul said, "The Qur'an is more in need of the Sunna than the Sunna is of the Qur'an." Yahya ibn Abi Kathir said, "The Sunna judges the Book and the Book does not judge the Sunna." Al-Fudayl ibn Ziyad said that he heard Ahmad ibn Hanbal being asked about this hadith and he said, 'I am not so bold as to say it, but I say the Sunna explains and clarifies the Book."
How to learn and understand the Book of Allah and the Sunna of His Prophet. It is reported that it used to be easier to act by it than to memorise it
In the Kitab al-Bayan, ad-Dani reports from 'Uthman, Ibn Mas'ud and Ubayy that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to recite ten ayats to them, and they did not go on to another ten until they knew what action was connected to those ayats. So we should learn the Qur'an and how to act by it at the same time. It is reported that as-Sulami said, "When we learned ten ayats of the Qur'an, we did not learn the ten after them until we knew what they contained of the halal and haram, of prohibitions and commands." In the Muwatta', Malik reported that he heard that 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar spent eight years learning Surat al-Baqara. In his book, The Names of Those who Transmitted from Malik, Ahmad ibn 'Ali ibn Thabit mentions that Nafi' transmitted that Ibn 'Umar said, "'Umar learned al-Baqara over twelve years. When he finished, he slaughtered a camel." Al-Anbari reports that 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud said, "It was difficult for us to memorise the words of the Qur'an, but easy for us to act by them. After us will be people for whom it is easy to memorise the Qur'an, but hard to act by it."
It is reported that Ibn 'Umar said, "The best of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, at the beginning of this Community only memorised a sura or two of the Qur'an. They were given the gift of acting by the Qur'an. The last of this community will recite the Qur'an – children and blind – and will not be given the gift of acting by it." Khalaf ibn Hisham al-Bazzar was heard to say, "I only think that the Qur'an our hands has been denuded [of action]. That is because we were told that 'Umar ibn al-Khattab memorised Surat al-Baqara over the course of about ten years. When he had memorised it, he slaughtered a camel to thank Allah. In our time, a boy sits before me and recites a third of the Qur'an without missing out a single letter. I only reckon that the Qur'an is denuded in our hands."
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