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Quran And Tafsir

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  Writer Name : Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah
Language English
Translation By
Article Source Islam House
Addition Date 17/08/2013
How Tafsir Is Performed ?, كيفية التفسير
Sheikhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah
أحمد بن عبد الحليم بن تيمية

2011 - 1432
If you ask what is the best method of tafsir, the answer is that the best way is to explain the Quran through the Quran. For, what the Quran alludes to at one place is explained at the other, and what it says in brief on one occasion is elaborated upon at the other. But if this does not help you, you should turn to the Sunnah, because the Sunnah explains and elucidates the Quran. Imam Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Idris ash-Shafi has said: "All that the Prophet, peace be upon him, has said is what he has derived from the Quran." Allah has said:
We have sent down to you the book in truth that you may judge between me, as Allah guides you; so do not be an advocate for those who betray their trust. [Al-Quran 4:105]
We have sent down to you the message that you may explain clearly to people what has been sent to them, and that they think over it. [Al-Quran 16:44]
We sent down the Book to you for the express purpose that you should make clear to them those things in which they differ, and that it should be a guide and a mercy to those who believe. [Al-Quran 16:64]
This is why the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said:
Know that I have been given the Quran and something like it. [Ahmad, Musnad, Vol. IV 131; Ab Dawud, Sunan, Sunnah, 5]
Namely the Sunnah. In fact, the Sunnah, too has been given to him through wahy as the Quran, except that it has not been recited to him as the Quran. Imam ash-Shafi and other scholars have advanced a number of arguments in support of this point; but this is not the place to quote them. [For discussion see ash-Shafi Ar-Rislah]
In order to understand the Quran, you should first look to the Quran itself. If that does not help, then turn to the Sunnah.

The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam sent Muadh radiallahu anhu to Yemen and asked him: "How will you judge the cases (that come to you)?" He replied: "I will judge according to the Book of Allah." "But if you do not get anything there, what will you do?", the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam asked. He said: "I will refer to the Sunnah of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam." "But if you do not get it even there, what will you do?", the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam asked again. He replied: "I will exercise my judgment." Hearing this the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam patted Muadh radiallahu anhu on the shoulder and said: "Praise be to Allah who has guided the Messenger of His Messenger to what pleases His Messenger."
This hadith has been reported in the Musnad and Sunan collections of hadith with a good isnad. [Ahmad, Musnad V:230, 236, 242; ad-Darimi, Sunan, Muqaddimah, 30; at-Tirmidhi, Sunan, Ahkam, 3; Abu Dawud, Sunan, Adhiyah, 11.]
When you do not get any help from the Quran or the Sunnah, turn to the words of the companions. For they know the Quran better: they have witnessed its revelation, and passed through the situations in which it was revealed: and know it and understand it fully. This is particularly true of the scholars and leaders such as the four righteous caliphs and Abdullah ibn Masud. Imam Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari reports: Abu Kurayb narrated to us, saying: Jabir ibn Nh informed us that: al-Amash informed us from Abu Duha: from Masruq that Abdullah ibn Masud said: "By the one besides whom there none having the right to be worshipped, there is no verse in the Quran about which I do not know in whose case and at what place was it revealed. If I were aware that anyone knew the Quran more than me, and I could reach him, I would certainly have gone to see him." [Ibnul-Athir, Jami al-Usul f Ahadith ar-Rasul, 1392/1972, Vol. IX p. 48.] Al-Amash has also reported through Abu Wail that Ibn Masud said: "When anyone of us learned ten verses of the Quran, he did not proceed further unless he had known what they meant and what action they demanded."
Another great scholar is Abdullah ibn Abbas radiallahu anhuma, the nephew of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and the commentator of the Quran. He attained that stature in virtue of the Prophet's prayer: "O Allah! Give him knowledge of Islam and teach him the meaning of the Quran." [Ahmad, Musnad, Vol. 1: 266, 314, 328, 335]. Muhammad ibn Bashshar narrated to us, that Waki informed us, that Sufyan informed us from al-Amash: from Musim (ibn Sabih Abi Duha) from Masruq: that Abdullah ibn Masud radiallahu anhuma said: "What a good interpreter of the Quran Ibn Abbas is!" Ibn Jarir has also reported this hadith through Yahya ibn Dawud, from Ishaq al-Azraq, from Sufyan, from al-Amash, from Muslim ibn Sabih Abi Duha, from al-Masruq with slightly different words: "What a good interpreter Ibn Abbas is of the Quran!" He has also reported the same words through Bundar, from Jafar ibn Awn from al-Amash. These words are, therefore, the actual words of Ibn Masud radiallahu anhuma which he said about Ibn Abbas radiallahu anhuma. Ibn Masud radiallahu anhuma died, most probably, in 33 A.H. Ibn Abbas radiallahu anhuma lived for thirty six years after him, and added a lot to the treasury of Islamic knowledge.
Al-Amash quotes from Abu Wail that Ibn Abbas radiallahu anhuma was appointed leader of the Hajj by Ali radiallahu anhu; he delivered a sermon and read from Surah al-Baqarah, or Srah an-Nur according to another report, and explained it in such a way that had the Romans, Turks and the Dalamites heard it, they would have embraced Islam. This is the reason why most of what Ismail ibn Abd ar-Rahman Suddi has written in tafsir consists of the explanations of these two scholars: Ibn Masud and Ibn Abbas radiallahu anhum.

From An Introduction to the Principles of Tafsir. Published by Al-Hidaayah Publishing and Distribution