Hadith & Sunnah Explains the Qur’an

“Praise be to Allah who revealed to His servant the Book and placed therein no crookedness. He has made it straight in order that He may warn of a terrible punishment from him and that He may give glad tidings to the believers who work righteous deeds that they shall have a great reward wherein they shall abide forever. Further, that He may warn those who claim that Allah has begotten a son.” [Sûrah al-Kahf: 1-4]

May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon His Messenger who said: “I was given the Qur’ân and something else like it. I fear lest a man will sit contentedly reclining and say: ‘You must follow this Qur’ân. Whatever you find therein permissible, permit it, and whatever you find therein prohibited, forbid it.’ Nay, for indeed whatever Allah’s Messenger has prohibited, it is as if Allah has prohibited it.”   [Musnad Ahmad 17174]

It is one of Allah’s blessings upon humanity that He has preserved among them His revealed words without allowing any corruption to alter them. This may indeed be Allah’s greatest blessing upon humanity as a whole, since His Book provides them with a way to properly govern their lives and resolve their disputes.

The Qur’ân came to humanity after all the previous revealed scriptures had either been lost or, like the Torah and the Gospel, corrupted. Allah speaks about how people had corrupted the scriptures, saying: “Woe to those who write the Book with their own hands and then say: ‘This is from Allah’ to gain from it a paltry  price. So woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they gain from it.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 79]

If the Qur’ân is Allah’s greatest blessing upon humanity, it follows that knowledge of the commentary and interpretation of the Qur’ân is the greatest of all knowledge, since it is the knowledge that gives humanity a correct understanding of what Allah is saying to them. This is why scholars throughout history have given this field of study so much attention and have written so extensively about it.

The commentary of the Qur’ân began at the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Indeed, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is the primary source for explaining Allah’s Book. He explained the meanings of the Qur’ân’s verses by his words and by his deeds.

In this short treatise, we shall investigate this prophetic commentary of the Qur’ân. This investigation will be organized into the following chapters:

Chapter One: Special qualities of the Qur’ân
Chapter Two: Muslim efforts in  interpreting the Qur’ân
Chapter Three: How the Prophet  conveyed the Qur’ân
Chapter Four: The commentary  of the Companions
Chapter Five: How the Sunnah explains the Qur’ân

Special Qualities of the Qur’ân

Without a doubt, the most salient feature of the Qur’ân is that it is Allah’s word. Allah says: “It is indeed a mighty Book. Falsehood cannot approach it from before it or from behind it. It is revelation from one who is wise and worthy of praise.” [Sûrah Fussilat: 41-42]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The Qur’ân has the distinction over all other speech that Allah has over His Creation.” [Sunan al-Dârimî 3399]

It is sufficient that the Qur’ân is the speech of Allah. It needs no other special distinction after that. However, I feel that it is necessary for the purpose of this treatise for me to point out three more remarkable qualities of Allah’s Book.

1. The first of these distinctive features is that the Qur’ân has been perfectly preserved. Allah says: “Indeed, We have revealed the Remembrance, and indeed We shall be its protector.” [Sûrah al-Hijr: 9]

Since the time it was revealed, Allah has preserved the Qur’ân in the hearts of the people and in writing. It had  been committed to memory by the Companions and by every generation that came after them. The care paid by the Muslims in accurately recording and memorizing the Qur’ân has been phenomenal. Every letter and vowel mark indicating every mode of reciting the Qur’ân has been preserved without the least addition or subtraction.

Al-Qurtubî and some other scholars of Qur’ânic commentary mention an interesting story regarding the preservation of the Qur’ân:

The Caliph al-Ma`mûn used to convene intellectual gatherings. One of these meetings was attended by a man wearing beautiful clothing, possessing a handsome face, and followed by a sweet fragrance. He spoke in a most eloquent manner. When the meeting was adjourned, al-Ma’mûn summoned this man and asked him: “Are you from the Israelites?” He replied that he was. Al-Ma’mûn said: “Accept Islam and I shall arrange good things for you.” Al-Ma’mûn made him a number of promises.

The man merely replied “My religion and the religion of my forefathers” and went away.

A year later, he returned as a Muslim. He spoke about matters of Islamic Law in a most proficient manner. When the meeting was adjourned, al-Ma’mûn again summoned him and said: “Are you not the man who was with us before?” He replied that he was. Al-Ma’mûn then asked him what had prompted him to accept Islam.

He replied: “When I left your presence, I wished to put these religions to the test. And you indeed regard me a man of keen intellect. So I turned my attention to the Torah. I produced three copies of it, each time adding and deleting some things from it. Then I took these copies to the place of prayer and they were purchased from me.

“I then turned my attention to the Qur’ân and drafted thre  copies of it, each time adding and deleting some things from it. Then I took these copies to the copyists and they skimmed through them. When they found the additions and deletions that I had made, they threw them aside and did not purchase them. So I came to know that this is a protected book, and this is the reason that I accepted Islam.”

2. The second distinctive feature is that the Qur’ân is complete and comprehensive. Allah says about the Qur’ân that it is “…a detailed exposition of all things” [Sûrah Yûsuf: 111]

There is no matter that humanity needs to know about in their religion or their worldly life without the Qur’ân discussing it. It does so by mentioning it directly, or by providing a general principle that covers it, or by referring to another source like the Sunnah, juristic consensus, or juristic analogy.

In this way, every issue of this world and the next that concerns people individually or collectively is dealt with, from matters of faith and morality to social, political, and economic concerns. It is all found in the Qur’ân. If it is not mentioned specifically, then it is covered as part of something broader.

The Qur’ân provides the essential teachings of faith and law and embraces in its comprehensiveness all the affairs of human life.

3. The third distinctive feature is that the Qur’ân is the absolute, indisputable truth. Allah says: “This is the Book wherein there is no doubt, a guide for those who fear Allah.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 2]

Whatever the Qur’ân says about the past, present, and future is true. It is absolutely impossible for the Qur’ân to be in contradiction with the actualities of the world, whether the historical events of the past or the scientific discoveries of the future.

We assert without the  least hesitation on the basis of our faith in Allah that everything the Qur’ân says about the nations of the past, the happenings of the future, the stories of the Prophets, the physical realities of the universe, and the human soul are all true. For this reason, we know that it is impossible for science to come with a fact that contradicts with the Qur’ân. Whoever claims that there is a scientific fact that contradicts with the Qur’ân is either misunderstanding the Qur’ân or the scientific concepts in question.

Such a contradiction is impossible, because the one who revealed the Qur’ân is the one who created the universe and everything within it. It is not possible that Allah will say anything about His Creation except the absolute truth. Allah says: “Should He who created not know? And He is the knower of subtleties, the All-Aware.” [Sûrah  al-Mulk:14]

Just as we can be sure that what the Qur’an informs us about is undoubtedly true, we can be equally sure that what the Qur’ân legislates for us is undoubtedly just. Allah says: “The word of your Lord is fulfilled in truth and justice.” [Sûrah al-An`âm: 115]  This means that it is true in what it informs us of and just in what it legislates for us.

The blessing of the Qur’an
The Qur’ân is the criterion and the scale of reference for all disputes and disagreements in matters of  religion. We can appreciate the great blessing that Allah has given us in preserving the Qur’ân up to our time. It is the greatest of blessings bestowed upon the Muslims, and indeed upon all humanity.

We can show our thanks for this blessing by allowing the Qur’ân to govern our lives, our families, and our societies. The Qur’ân should be referred to in all of our affairs. If we fail to do so, we will be showing ingratitude for this greatest of blessings. The punishment for this ingratitude is a painful one indeed. It is that the Qur’ân will be taken away from us and not a trace of it will be left on Earth.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Islam will be obliterated just like a stain is washed out of a  garment. Fasting, prayer, the pilgrimage rites, and charity will be unknown. Allah’s Book will be lifted up on a night so that not even a verse of it will remain on Earth.” [Sunan Ibn Mâjah (4049)] 

The Qur’ân shall be removed from the hearts of men and from the pages on which it is written because it will cease to be acted upon and benefited from.

Out of respect for His words, Allah will lift it away from those who ignore it and deny it the recognition that it deserves.

Muslim Efforts in Interpreting the Qur’ân

The Qur’ân was revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions learned it from him. They, in turn, taught it to the Muslims who came after them. The Muslims showed the Qur’ân the utmost care and concern. This is no more evident than in the care that they showed in the interpretation of the Qur’ân.

The efforts  of the  Companions in interpreting  and explaining the  Qur’ân

The Companions were very concerned with the correct understanding of the Qur’ân. Some of them became well known for their knowledge in this area, having devoted their lives to this endeavor. The following Companions are the most notable among them:

`Abd Allah b.`Abbâs (radhiyallahu anhi). He was known as Hibr al-Ummah (Scribe of the Muslim Nation) and Tarjumân al-Qur’ân (Interpretor of the Qur’ân). He was the foremost of all the commentators of the Qur’ân. The Prophet (peace be upon him) had made the following supplication on his behalf: “O Allah, give him understanding of the religion and teach him the interpretation of the Qur’ân.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî  (143)]

Numerous statements regarding the commentary and interpretation of Qur’ânic verses have been related from him. He was one of the four people who had compiled the entire Qur’ân together during the Prophet’s lifetime and he was one of the most important reciters of the Qur’ân from among the Companions.

`Abd Allah b. Mas`ûd (radhiyallahu anhu). The Prophet (peace be upon him) had said: “Take the Qur’ân from four people: Ibn Mas`ûd, Mu`âdh bin Jabal, Ubayy bin Ka`b, and Sâlim the ward of Abû Hudhayfah.” [Sahîh Muslim (2464)]

`Abd Allah bin Mas`ûd (radhiyallahu anhu) said: “I  swear by Allah; indeed I have taken from the lips of Allah’s Messenger over seventy chapters of the Qur’ân. And by Allah, the  Companions know that I am among the most knowledgeable among them concerning Allah’s book, though I am not the best of them.”

The person who related this statement of Ibn Mas`ûd (radhiyallahu anhu) follows it with the following comment: “I sat in study circles and listened to what the people were saying and never heard anyone respond by saying anything to the contrary.”

`Abd Allah b. Mas`ûd (radhiyallahu anhu) also said, “I swear by Allah besides whom there is no other God; no verse of Allah’s Book has been revealed except that I know the circumstances in which it was revealed. If I had known anyone else more knowledgeable about Allah’s Book than me who could be reached by camel, I would have mounted a camel and gone to him.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (5002)]

Other Companions who made significant contributions to Qur’ânic commentary were`Alî bin Abi’ Talib, Ubayy bin Ka`b, and `Abd  Allah bin `Umar (radhiyallahu anhuma).

In his Muwatta’, Mâlik narrates that Ibn `Umar devoted eight years to the study of Sûrah al-Baqarah, the first and longest chapter of the Qur’ân. [Al-Muwatta’ (477)]. When he completed it, he offered a camel in sacrifice to Allah as a token of gratitude.

He had studied both the words and the meanings of Sûrah al-Baqarah, committing its understanding to memory along with its recitation. It takes an average student today a few weeks to a month to commit Sûrah al-Baqarah to memory, whereas Ibn `Umar, the eminent Companion, took eight years to do so, because he committed to his knowledge along with the words of the Qur’ân the meaning and proper understanding of the text.

The efforts of the Successors in interpreting and explaining the  Qur’ân

The Successors, those who learned from the Companions, acquired from them the knowledge of Qur’ânic commentary. Among their number were some of the greatest scholars in the field, like Mujâhid bin Jâbir al-Makkî, about whom Sufayan al-Thawrî said: “If you get the commentary of the Qur’ân from Mujâhid, it will be enough for you.” [Refer to Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr (1/6)]

There is nothing at all surprising about this, since Mujâhid (rahimahullah) was a student of none other than Ibn `Abbâs. He said: “I read the Qur’ân to Ibn `Abbâs three times from beginning to end, stopping upon each verse.” [Tabaqât Ibn Sa`d (2/395)]

Among the many other Successors who were known for the commentary of the Qur’ân were Qatadah, `Ikrimah, al-Suddî (rahimahumullah).

The written compilation of the commentary of the Qur’ân

Thereafter, eminent scholars committed the commentary of the Qur’ân to writing. Thousands of commentaries on the Qur’ân were written employing a variety of approaches. Specialists in the Arabic language wrote commentaries examining the language, grammar, and linguistic style of the Qur’ân. Scholars of Islamic Law wrote books focusing on the verses of the Qur’ân that deal with legal rulings and what they indicate and the differences of opinion among  jurists  regarding these indications. Scholars of hadîth wrote books wherein they collected together the various narrations that discuss the meanings of the verses of the Qur’ân. 

Specialists in every field lent their particular expertise to the body of literature known as Qur’ânic  commentary. There can be no doubt that these books vary widely in their quality and value. Indeed, some commentaries were written merely to advance the particular ideas of their authors with little regard for objectivity.

There have been scholars of Islamic Law who interpreted verses of the Qur’ân to support their own legal opinions as well  as their preferences among the legal verdicts of other jurists.

There have also been a number of scientifically minded people, especially in recent years, who have tried to make the Qur’ân indicate scientific ideas that it simply does not indicate. This is the case with Tantâwî’s commentary al-Jawâhir. This  book contains everything save  Qur’ânic commentary. It is more a  book of astronomy, physics, biology, and geology and contains virtually  nothing of Qur’ânic commentary.

This is a common tendency among advocates of an idea referred to as “the scientific miracle of the Qur’ân”. Some of the proponents of this idea have gone to extremes in distorting the interpretation of certain verses to indicate meanings that are simply not being indicated by those verses. They do so hoping to demonstrate that the Qur’ân anticipated certain modern scientific discoveries – and even some unproven hypotheses.

How the  Prophet (peace be upon him) Conveyed  the Qur’ân

These differences that exist in the interpretation of the Qur’ân make it necessary for a Muslim who sincerely wishes to know the true meaning of Allah’s Book to go back to the original source and unadulterated well-spring of this knowledge. This source is none other than the Prophet’s authentic Sunnah. This is the best source for the proper understanding of the Qur’ân, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) was the one commanded by Allah to communicate the Qur’ân to us.

Allah says the following in this regard:

“Your duty is but to convey the Message.” [Sûrah al-Shûrâ: 48]

“Do not move your tongue in haste with it. Indeed, it is upon Us to bring it together and recite it. So when We recite it, follow attentively its recitation. Then it is upon Us to expound it.” [Sûrah al-Qiyâmah:16-19]

“O Messenger! Convey what has been sent down to you from your Lord. If you do not do so, you will not have conveyed His Message.” [Sûrah al-Mâ’idah: 67]

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was commanded to convey the Message and to explain it. What exactly, we may ask, does this entail? It actually entails quite a number of things, which can be enumerated as follows:

1. Conveyance of the words of the Qur’ân

It was the duty of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to convey the words of the Qur’ân exactly as they were revealed to him without any alteration, addition, or omission.

Allah says: “Indeed, Allah conferred a great blessing upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves reciting unto them His signs, purifying them, and teaching them the Book and the Wisdom, while before that they had been in manifest error.” [Sûrah Al `Imrân: 164] 

The statement “reciting unto them His signs” refers to the actual words of the Qur’ân.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) showed the utmost care and concern for conveying the words of the Qur’ân. Ibn `Abbâs (radhiyallahu anhu), while explaining the meaning of the verses of Sûrah al-Qiyâmah quoted above, shows us just how concerned the Prophet (peace be upon him) was:

“Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) used to be seriously taxed when receiving revelation and he would follow along with it by moving his lips, so Allah revealed: ‘Do not move your tongue in haste with it. Indeed, it is upon Us to bring it together and recite  it.’ – meaning ‘We will bring it together in your heart and then you should recite it’ – ‘So when We recite it, follow attentively its recitation.’ – meaning:  ‘Listen and be silent, and then it will be upon Us that you will be able to recite it.’ 

Thereafter, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) would listen when the angel Gabriel came to him. Then when Gabriel departed, he would recite it just as it was recited to him.”

This faithful communication of the words of the Qur’ân was part of what Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was commanded by his Lord to convey to humanity. There is no doubt that he conveyed the words of the Qur’ân to us accurately and completely and that he did not conceal anything that was revealed to him.

If the Prophet (peace be upon him) were to have concealed any verse of the Qur’ân, it would have been: “And recall when you said to the one who had received Allah’s favor and your favor: Retain your wife (in marriage) and fear Allah.’ And you were hiding in your heart what Allah was about to make manifest. You were fearing the people, but it is more fitting that you should fear Allah.”
[Sûrah al-Ahzâb: 37]

This verse censures Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) in the sharpest manner. Nevertheless, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) had to dutifully recited this verse to the people, both within prayer and outside of it.

He would also have had reason to conceal “He (the Prophet) frowned and turned away when the blind man approached him. And what could tell you but that perhaps he might become purified or that he might receive admonition and that the admonition might benefit him? As for the one who regards himself as self-sufficient, he is the one to whom you give your attention, though it is not upon you if he does not become purified. But as for him who came to you earnestly and with humility, of him you were unmindful.” [Sûrah `Abasa: 1-10]

Though these verses rebuke the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the harshest of terms, he recited them to the people just as they were revealed to him.

Allah chose Muhammad (peace be upon him) for His Message above all humanity, and Allah says:

“Allah best knows with whom to entrust His Message.” [Sûrah al-An`âm:124] 

He chose a man whom He knew would not conceal anything that was revealed to him, even those verses that scolded and censured him. Allah chose a man who would convey those verses just as faithfully as the verses that praised him.

He would recite to the people Allah’s praises for him, like “He is upon a most exalted standard of conduct.” [Sûrah al-Qalam: 4]  and “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe upon the unbelievers and merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and in prostration seeking Allah’s favor and His pleasure.” [Sûrah al-Fath: 29] Yet with equal ease he would recite the verses that scolded him and censured him.

2. Conveyance of the meaning of  the Qur’ân

Though he took great care to convey the words of the Qur’ân faithfully, he did not suffice with that. He made equally certain to explain to the people the meaning of those words. In fact, the task of explaining the meaning of Allah’s book is cited in the Qur’ân itself as being part of the Prophet’s duty. This is why Allah says: “Then it is upon Us to expound it.” [Sûrah al-Qiyâmah: 19]  after saying “Do not move your tongue in haste with it. Indeed, it is upon Us to bring it together and recite it.” Allah is saying here that it is upon Him to explain to His Messenger (peace be upon him) the meaning of what He is revealing to him of the Qur’ân’s words.

After Allah says: “Indeed, Allah conferred a great blessing upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves reciting unto them His signs…” He immediately  follows it by saying “…purifying them…” [Sûrah Al `Imrân: 164]  This purification means that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) developed the character of his Companions upon the teachings of the Qur’ân. The Qur’ân was transformed within their personalities from a mere written word into a practical and vital expression of life in the real world.

It has been said about the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that each of them was like a Qur’ân walking on the Earth. This is not hard to accept, for when `Â’ishah (radhiyallahu anha), the Prophet’s wife, was asked to describe her husband’s character, she said  to her questioner: “Do you read the Qur’ân?” When her questioner responded in the affirmative, she said: “The character of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was the Qur’ân.” [Sahîh Muslim (746)]

When Allah speaks about the Prophet (peace be upon him) purifying those to whom he came, he is talking about how the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught them proper beliefs, lofty moral values, nobility of conduct, and what they needed to prepare them for the role of leading humanity which was required of them.

After saying all of this, Allah continues by saying: “…and teaching them the Book and the Wisdom”. This begs us to ask the question: What is the book being referred to and what is meant by “the Wisdom”?

The famous jurist, al-Shâfî`î (rahimahullah), provides the following answer to this question:

Allah says: “And recite what is rehearsed to you in your homes of Allah’s signs and of the Wisdom. Truly Allah is the Subtle, the All-Aware.” [Sûrah al-Ahzâb: 34]

Allah makes reference to His Book which is the Qur’ân. He also mentions the Wisdom, which, according to what I have heard from those whose knowledge of the Qur’ân I am pleased with, refers to the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger.” [al-Risâlah, pp.77-78]

Therefore, we must consider closely Allah’s statement: “Indeed, Allah conferred a great blessing upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves reciting unto them His signs, purifying them, and teaching them the Book and the Wisdom, while before that they had been in manifest error.” [Sûrah Al `Imrân: 164]

When we do so, we can see that it starts off by stating how Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) conveyed to his Companions the words of the Qur’ân. Then, once they had committed these words to memory, he would take them to the next level by “teaching them the Book”, explaining to them the meaning of those words. He would go even further by “purifying them”, shaping their personalities and conduct in accordance with the Qur’ân’s teachings.

One of the students of the Companions spoke about how he learned from them, saying: “Those among the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who taught us the Qur’ân told us that they used to learn ten verses at a time from Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). They would not take from him another ten until after they learned the knowledge that those verses contained and how to put what they learned into practice.” [Musannaf  Ibn  Abî  Shaybah   (29929)]

The duty of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was to convey the text of the Qur’ân along with its meaning. Indeed, it was a duty that he carried out most admirably.

The Commentary of the Companions

The Prophet’s Companions were for the most part Arabs. They knew the Arabic language instinctively. By merely hearing Arabic speech, they knew exactly what the speaker intended. Likewise, the unbelievers of Makkah knew the Arabic language and knew in general terms what the Qur’ân was saying. 

Allah says: “Truly it is revelation from the Lord of All the Worlds, brought down by the Trustworthy Spirit (Gabriel) to your heart – so you could give admonition – in the clear Arabic tongue.” [Sûrah al-Shu`arâ’: 192-195]

Allah says: “And we never sent a Messenger with other than the language of his people.” [Sûrah  Ibrâhîm: 4]

The Arabs – even the unbelievers among them – understood in general what the Qur’ân was saying to them. This is why so many of them rejected it when it spoke contrary to their vain desires and vested interests.

They likewise understood the meaning of the Arabic declaration “Lâ ilâha illâ Allah” (There is no God but Allah). So when they heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say “O people! Say that there is no god but Allah”, they fully appreciated that it meant there was to be no worship meted out to anyone besides Allah alone and that only Allah deserves to be worshipped. This is why they rejected it so decisively, saying: “Has he made the gods into one God? This is something strange indeed!” [Sûrah Sâd: 5]

The leaders of the polytheists like Abû Jahl and Abû Lahab knew the Arabic language and what it means. By contrast, many Muslims today – and indeed for many generations – declare “Lâ ilâha illâ Allah” without understanding its true meaning the way those pagans of old understood it. Many Muslims today assume that the statement “There is no god but Allah” simply means that there is no Creator and Provider apart from Allah. This is only part of its meaning. However, its true meaning – the one that the pagans of Makkah so violently rejected – is that Allah alone must receive our worship.

The Companions were Arabs of their day and understood the Arabic language. They understood most of what the Qur’ân was saying merely by having the Prophet (peace be upon him) recite it to them.  

Likewise, the Arabs of today understand a reasonable portion of the Qur’ân without having to refer back to books of commentary. When the Qur’ân discusses things like Paradise, Hell, the Messengers, and matters of inheritance, an Arab understands immediately what is being said. The Companions who lived at the time the Qur’ân was being revealed, likewise understood much more than that.

Reasons why the Companions differed in their understanding of the Qur’ân

The Companions understood the Qur’ân better than anyone else. In spite of this, they differed among themselves in their understanding of the Qur’ân for various reasons. This is why they would go to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and ask him about matters they needed to have clarified and He would explain these matters to them.

Among the reasons for their disagreements were the following:

1. Varying degrees of intellectual ability and insightfulness.
Allah bestows upon His servants varying degrees of reason and intelligence. Some people are blessed to be geniuses and others have lesser intellectual powers bestowed upon them.

All of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) enjoyed a certain minimum degree of knowledge of the Qur’ân. However, beyond this common knowledge, many Companions had much more, and to varying degrees.

`Alî (radhiyallahu anhu) was once asked: “Do you know anything of the revelation besides what is in Allah’s Book?”

He replied: “I swear by Him who cleaves the seed open and creates life, I know nothing save an understanding of the Qur’ân that Allah bestows upon a man and what is written on that scroll.” He pointed to a scroll that he had hanging from his sword.

His questioner asked him what was written on the scroll. He replied: “Matters of blood money and of freeing a slave and the ruling that a Muslim should not be killed in retribution for the death of an unbeliever.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (3047)]

`Alî (radhiyallahu anhu) had said: “…an understanding of the Qur’ân that Allah bestows upon a man…”, indicating that some of the Companions were blessed with more of an understanding than others.

Ibn `Abbâs (radhiyallahu anhu) had once placed for the Prophet (peace be upon him) water for him to use for purification. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked: “Who is it that placed this here?”

The people informed him that it was Ibn `Abbâs (radhiyallahu anhu) who had done so. At that time, Ibn`Abbâs (radhiyallahu anhu) was a pre-pubescent boy. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was impressed with the boy’s knowledge, intelligence, and good manners and made the following supplication to Allah on his behalf: “O Allah, give him understanding of the religion and teach him the interpretation of the Qur’ân.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (143)]

Ibn`Abbâs (radhiyallahu anhu) enjoyed an unsurpassable knowledge of the Qur’ân. Many stories and narrations have reached us about the excellence of his knowledge. Perhaps one of the most amazing of these is what took place between him and a Khârijite named Nâfi`bin al-Azraq al-Khârijî.

Nâfi`bin al-Azraq had asked Ibn `Abbâs (radhiyallahu anhu) a series of questions about the Qur’ân. Each time Ibn `Abbâs (radhiyallahu anhu) gave him an answer, Nâfi` would challenge him by saying: “Do the Arabs know this in their language?” Ibn`Abbâs (radhiyallahu anhu) would say “Yes, they do” then go on to prove it by citing from memory literary precedents from verses of Arabic poetry. This showed how extensive and remarkable his knowledge was.

The Companions had different degrees of knowledge and consequently disagreed in their understanding of the meanings of many verses. Sometimes a Companion would even misunderstand what a certain verse was speaking about, as we shall discuss shortly.

2. Differences in their understanding of the Arabic language.
Though they were Arabs, some of them had a more extensive vocabulary and a deeper knowledge of the subtleties of the Arabic language than others.

For instance,`Umar bin Al-Khattâb (radhiyallahu anhu) recited from the Qur’ân: “And we split open the Earth and produce therein corn and grapes and herbs and olives and dates and enclosed gardens with lofty trees and fruits and abb.” [Sûrah `Abasa: 26-31] Then he said, regarding the last verse:  “We know what fruits are but what is abb?” Then he thought to himself and said: “By Allah, this is indeed burdensome, O `Umar!” [Tafsîr  al-Tabarî (30/59-61). The word abb is an Arabic word referring to plants that are used as fodder for livestock].

Abû Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu) also asked about the same verse and lamented: “What land could shelter me and what sky could shade me if I were to dare say about Allah’s Book what I do not know?” [Musannaf Ibn Abî Shaybah (30103)]

This shows that the Companions differed in their knowledge of the Arabic language. They likewise disagreed in their understanding of the intended meaning of certain verses. For instance, when `Adî bin Hâtim heard the verse “…so eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you from the black thread of dawn…” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 187], he understood it to mean actual threads of cloth. So when he went to sleep that evening, he placed a black thread and a white thread beneath his pillow. When he woke up to take his morning meal before starting his fast, he placed those threads beside him and continued to look at them while he ate until the sky became bright enough for him to distinguish the black thread from the white thread.

Later on that day, he went to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and informed him of what he had done. The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained to him the meaning of the black thread and the white thread referred to in the verse, saying: “That only refers to the blackness of the night and the whiteness of the day. So if the light of dawn becomes visible to you, stop eating.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1916)]

This shows how the Companions could differ in understanding the intended meaning of Allah’s words. In the Arabic language, it is possible to understand the black thread and the white thread to mean actual cotton threads. The language also allows for these phrases to indicate night and day. `Adî had understood the first meaning, so the Prophet (peace be upon him) explained to him that the second meaning was actually intended. There is no doubt that the other Companions did not understand the verse in the way that Adî had understood it, since they did not do what he had done.

3. Differences in their knowledge of historical events, happenings, and other types of knowledge that contribute to the understanding of the Qur’ân.
Al-Mughîrah bin Shu`bah (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had sent him to the Christians of Najrân to call them to Islam and to teach them. One of the things that al-Mughîrah (radhiyallahu anhu) informed them about was the verse of the Qur’ân describing what the people exclaimed when they saw Mary carrying a child: “O sister of Haroon, Your father was not a man of evil nor your mother an unchaste woman!” [Sûrah Maryam: 28]

When the Christians of Najrân heard this verse, they objected: “O Mughîrah, how can you call her ‘the sister of Aaron when many centuries had passed between her time and that of Aaron?”

Al-Mughîrah (radhiyallahu anhu) was confused and did not know what to say, so he returned to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked him about it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “They used to call each other by the names of their Prophets and the names of the pious people who came before them.”   

The Prophet (peace be upon him) solved the problem that al-Mughîrah (radhiyallahu anhu) had in understanding the Qur’ân. The Haroon (peace be upon him) being referred to was not the brother of Musa (peace be upon him) but another Haroon. This was something common, because the Jews used to give their children the names of the prophets and other pious people of aforetime, and Musa and Haroon were among those names.

Had al-Mughîrah (radhiyallahu anhu) known this fact, he would not have had to ask the Prophet (peace be upon him) about it. However, when the Christians brought the matter to his attention, he had no answer for them and he had to return to the Prophet (peace be upon him) for the answer.

How the  Sunnah Explains the  Qur’ân

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) explained in his Sunnah everything of the Qur’ân that needed to be explained. The question is: Does this mean that he explained all of the Qur’ân or only part of it?

Scholars have differed on this matter. Some, like al-Suyûtî, have expressed the opinion that he had to explain very little of the Qur’ân. Their opinion is based on the hadîth where`Â’ishah (radhiyallahu anha) supposedly said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not explain anything of the Qur’ân with his opinion save for a few verses.” [Majma`al-Zawa’id  (6/303)] 

However, this hadîth is unauthentic on account of its defective chain of transmission. One of its narrators is Ja`far al Zubayrî, a weak narrator whose hadîth cannot be relied upon.

Other scholars claim that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) explained the Qur’ân in its entirety. They mean that he explained all of the Qur’ân that could possibly need explanation, since there are verses of the Qur’ân that require no explanation at all.

Ibn`Abbâs (radhiyallahu anhu) said: “The explanation of the Qur’ân has four aspects to  it. The first aspect comprises what is known by the Arabs by virtue of their language. When it is recited to the Arabs, they understand it. Then there are the explanations that no one is excused for not knowing. This includes the explanation of the verses related to Islamic legal injunctions and beliefs that people need to know. Then there are the explanations that are known only to scholars. These are subtle meanings that most people do not grasp. Then there are matters whose explanation is known only to Allah. These are the four aspects of the explanation of the Qur’ân.” [Tafsîr al-Tabarî]

In short, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) explained in his Sunnah everything of the Qur’ân that needed explaining. The Sunnah is, in essence, the commentary of the Qur’ân, and it explains the Qur’ân in four ways:

1. Verbal (textual) explanation of the Qur’ân  

This is where the Prophet (peace be upon him) explains the Qur’ân by stating what it means. This is quite common in the Sunnah. Scholars have produced volumous works devoted to compiling these statements together, such as the commentaries of the Qur’ân compiled by `Abd bin Humayd, Ibn Mardawayh, Ibn Abî Hâtim, and al-Tabarî. The scholar al-Suyûtî compiled a great deal of these hadîth together in his work al-Durr al-Manthûr fî Tafsîr al-Ma’thûr.

Many compilations of the Sunnah contain chapters devoted to the explanation of the Qur’ân. For example, an entire volume of Ibn Athîr’s encyclopedic compilation of six major Sunnah books entitled Jâmi` al-`Usûl is devoted to statements related from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that explain the Qur’ân. The six Sunnah books that he brings together are Sahîh al-Bukhârî, Sahîh Muslim, Sunan Abî  Dâwûd,  Sunan al-Tirmidhî, Sunan al-Nasâ’î, and Muwatta’ Mâlik. In fact, the volume of his encyclopedia devoted to Qur’ânic commentary does not contain all the hadîth that explain verses of the Qur’ân. Some of those hadîth can be found under various other relevant categories and they amount to roughly another full volume of material.

The Prophet (peace be upon him), therefore, explained a great deal of the Qur’ân. The following examples are merely illustrative:

1. Allah says: “So whoever among you is sick or suffers from an ailment on his scalp must expiate by fasting, charity, or sacrifice.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 196] The phrase “fasting, charity, or sacrifice” requires further explanation. How much fasting or charity is needed and what kind of sacrifice is meant?

The Companion named Ka`b bin `Ajazah narrates the following:

I had an ailment on my scalp and I was brought to Allah’s Messenger with lice crawling on my face. He said: “I did not imagine that the effort expended by you would reach the level that I have seen. Can you find a sheep?”

I said to him: “No.”

Then the verse was revealed to “…expiate by fasting, charity, or sacrifice”.

He said: “Fast for three days or feed six poor people a half sâ`(A sâ` is a traditional measure of capacity roughly equivalent to the volume of four full double-handfuls of an average man when both of his hands are placed together to form a scoop. [al-Nawawî,  al-Majmû`]) of food each.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1815)]

In this way the Prophet (peace be upon him) explained the verse.

2. Allah says “On a day that some of your Lord’s signs shall arrive, a soul shall not benefit from its faith had it not believed from afore or had earned some good from its faith.” [Sûrah al-An`âm: 158]

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) explained that the time being referred to is when the Sun will rise from the West. He said: “The Hour will not arrive until the Sun rises from the west. And when it rises from the west, all of humanity will believe. So on that day  ‘…a soul shall not benefit from its faith had it not believed from  afore or had earned some  good from its faith’.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (4636)]

3.`Uqba bin `Âmir narrates the following:

I heard Allah’s Messenger while he was preaching behind the pulpit quote the verse: “And they prepared for them of what might you were capable of.” Then he said: “Indeed, might here means firepower. Indeed, might here means firepower. Indeed might here means firepower.” [Sahîh Muslim (1917)]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained that the “might” being referred to in the verse was the power of ranged weapons. In their day, this would mean arrows and spears. Today, it would apply to guns, missiles, and military aircraft.

4. The Prophet (peace be  upon  him) said: “No one will be put to the reckoning on the Day of Judgment save one who is doomed.”

To this `Â’ishah said: “O Messenger of Allah, didn’t Allah say: ‘And as for him who is given his book in his right hand, he will be given an easy reckoning.’?”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “This is but a presentation of deeds. No one who has his account discussed on the Day of Judgment will be spared from punishment.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî  (6537)]

In this way, the Prophet (peace be upon him) explained what the Qur’ân meant by an “easy reckoning” on the Day of Judgment. An easy reckoning was a mere enumeration of a person’s deeds and sins without those sins being discussed.

5. Allah says: “Allah makes firm those who believe with a firm statement in the life of this world and in the Hereafter.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained this verse, saying: “When the believer is seated in his grave, he will be approached and he will testify that there is no god besides Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. This is the meaning of His saying ‘Allah makes firm those who believe with a firm statement in the life of this world and in the Hereafter’.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî  (1369)]

2. Prophetic statements derived from meanings found in the Qur’ân 

Sometimes the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him) come with details and elaborations upon meanings expressed in the Qur’ân. This is more subtle than what we have just finished discussing. Here we have to first look at a statement made by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and then find the verse of the Qur’ân to which it relates. Ibn Kathîr pays considerable attention to this approach in his commentary of the Qur’ân.

Some examples of this are as follows:

1. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A worshipper is closest to his Lord when he is prostrating.” [Sahîh Muslim (482)]

In the Qur’ân, there is a verse that indicates this meaning. Allah says: “Nay, do not obey him. Rather prostrate and draw close (to Allah).” [Sûrah al-`Alaq: 19]

2. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When a man enters his house and invokes Allah’s name upon entering and upon partaking of food, Satan says (to his own kind): ‘You have no lodging here tonight and no  dinner.’ When he enters his house without invoking Allah’s name upon entering, Satan says (to his own kind): ‘You have found lodgings for the night.’ When he fails to invoke Allah’s name upon partaking of his food, Satan says: ‘You have found lodgings for the night and your dinner.’” [Sahîh Muslim (2018)]

The verse of the Qur’ân that indicates this meaning is as follows: “Deter whomever you are able from among them with your words and descend upon them with your steeds and your foot soldiers and share in their wealth, their progeny, and their provision.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 64] One way that Satan can share in our wealth is by eating, drinking, and lodging with us when we forget to invoke Allah’s name.

3. During the Battle of the Confederate Tribes, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “They kept us from the middle prayer – the `Asr prayer – so may Allah fill their homes and their graves with fire.”

It is as if this hadîth is a direct explanation of the verse: “Safeguard your prayers and (especially) the middle prayer.”  [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 238]

There is actually another verse of the Qur’ân that indicates that the middle prayer is the `Asr prayer. Allah says: “O you who believe! Let those whom your right hands possess and those who have yet to reach maturity seek your permission three times (before entering) at the time before the dawn prayer, when you take off your clothing in the afternoon, and after the night prayer.” [Sûrah al-Nûr: 58]

It could be that the Prophet (peace be upon him) understood from this verse of the Qur’ân that the `Asr prayer was the middle prayer, since this verse indicates that the times of prayer are reckoned to start at dawn and end at night, since Allah begins by mentioning the dawn prayer and ends by mentioning the night prayer. In this way the afternoon prayer – the `Asr prayer – becomes the middle prayer.

This verse is the reason why many scholars of Islamic Law and scholars of Hadîth start with the dawn prayer when they discuss the times of prayer in their writings.

4. The people of Banû Salamah were a group of the Ansâr who lived in a distant neighborhood of Madinah. When they wished to move their homes closer to the Prophet’s Mosque, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said to them: “O Banû Salamah! Your homes record your traces.”   [Sahîh Muslim (665)]

He meant by this that they should remain in their neighborhood and not think of relocating. It seems that the Prophet (peace be upon him) disliked the idea of any area of Madinah becoming vacant. He wanted to have righteous people spread throughout the land and not have them all concentrated in the vicinity of the mosque.

It could be that the Prophet (peace be upon him) understood what he said to them from Allah’s words: “Indeed We shall restore life to the dead and We record what they send before them and the traces they leave behind.”   [Sûrah YâSîn: 12] These traces that they leave behind include their going to the mosque and their returning from it.

5. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “No one should touch the Qur’ân except in a state of purity.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) may have derived this ruling from the following verses of the Qur’ân: “Indeed it is a noble Qur’ân, in a book well guarded which none shall touch save those who are purified; a revelation from the Lord of all the worlds.” [Sûrah al-Wâqi`ah: 77-80]

From these verses that describe the Qur’ân, scholars have derived the ruling that it is unlawful for a person to touch the Qur’ân except in a state of ritual purity.

3. Explanation of the context in which particular verses were revealed

A person who knows the context in which a particular verse of the Qur’ân was revealed is better equipped to understand what that verse means than someone who does not. We have many examples where the Sunnah provides us with this information:
1. We have the following account related by `Urwah bin Zubayr:

I asked `Â’ishah (radhiyallahu anha) the following question: “Have you considered where Allah says: ‘Verily Mount Safâ and Mount Marwah are among the rites of Allah. So for those who make the greater or lesser pilgrimage to the House, there is no sin upon him to compass round them.’ [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 158] For by Allah! There is no sin upon anyone for not compassing round Safâ and Marwah.”

`Â’ishah replied: “How wrong is what you have said, my nephew. If it were how you have interpreted it, then it would have read: ‘there is no sin upon him to not compass round them.’

Nevertheless, it was revealed for the inhabitants of Madinah. Before they had accepted Islam, they used to dedicate their pilgrimage to the false god Manât whom they used to worship at al-Mushallal. Those who did so considered it objectionable to then compass round al-Safâ and Marwah. So when they accepted Islam, they asked Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) about it, saying: ‘O Messenger of Allah! We used to find it objectionable to compass round the area between al-Safâ and Marwah.’ So Allah revealed the verse: ‘Verily Mount Safâ and Mount Marwah are among the rites of Allah…’”

Then `Â’ishah (radhiyallahu anha) said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) established the practice of traversing the ground between the two mountains, so no one is allowed to discard the practice of traversing between them.”

I then informed Abû  Bakr bin `Abd  al-Rahmân of this and he said to me: “There is something else that I have heard as well. For indeed I have from those possessing knowledge say that all the people – besides those mentioned by Â’ishah (radhiyallahu anha) who used to dedicate their pilgrimage to Manât – used to compass the ground between al-Safâ and Marwah. So when Allah mentioned compassing round the House without making mention of al-Safâ and Marwah in the Qur’ân, they said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! We used to compass the ground between al-Safâ and Marwah, but Allah has revealed compassing round the House without mentioning al-Safâ. So is there something wrong if we compass round them?’ So Allah revealed the verse: ‘Verily Mount Safâ and Mount Marwah are among the  rites of  Allah…’”

Then Abû Bakr bin `Abd al-Rahmân said: “I hear that this verse was revealed to both these groups of people; to those who objected to compassing between al-Safâ and Marwah in the days of ignorance as well as to those who used to do so and then thought it objectionable after accepting Islam because Allah mentioned compassing round the House without mentioning al-Safâ.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî  (1643)]

From this account, we know that the verse was revealed in two different contexts. The first was to tell the inhabitants of Madinah to compass the ground between Mount al-Safâ and Mount Marwah in contrast to what they used to do before Islam when they dedicated their pilgrimage to  Manât.

The second context was to tell the rest of the Muslims that they should continue to perform the circuits between al-Safâ and Marwah, even though they used to do so in the days of ignorance before Islam, since doing so is in fact one of the rites prescribed by Allah and not a custom from paganism.

By knowing the context in which this verse was revealed, we get a complete understanding of what the verse means.

2. Allah says: “It is no sin on you if you seek the bounty of your Lord. Then when you pour down from Mount `Arafât, celebrate the praises of your Lord at the sacred monument.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 198]

What does it mean in this verse to “seek the bounty of your Lord”? It could mean to pray to Allah, or to glorify him, or to seek His blessings. Indeed, the verse embraces these meanings.  However, the phrase “to seek the bounty of your Lord” is also used to mean commerce and the pursuit of business.

Ibn `Abbâs (radhiyallahu anhu) relates to us the context in which this verse was revealed:

`Ukâz, Mujannah, and Dhû al-Majâz were markets that were held in the times of ignorance. For this reason, people feared that it might be sinful to engage in trade during the season of pilgrimage. So Allah revealed the verse: “It is no sin on you if you seek the bounty of your Lord” about the pilgrimage season. [Sahîh al-Bukhârî  (4519)]

From this account, we know that the verse is telling us that it is not a sin to engage in commerce during the pilgrimage.

3. Allah says: “There is a mosque whose foundation was laid from the first day on piety. It is more worthy of your observing prayer therein. In it are men who love to be purified and Allah loves those who make themselves pure.”  [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 108]

What does this verse mean by “men who love to be purified?” Abû Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) discusses the context of this verse, informing us that it was revealed about the people of Qubâ’. He says: “They used to clean their private parts with water after going to relieve themselves.” [Sunan Abî Dâwûd  (45)]

4. Allah says: “On the day that they will be dragged into the Fire on their faces (hearing): ‘Taste ye the touch of Hell.’ Indeed We have created all things in decreed measure.” [Sûrah al-Qamar: 48-49]

Muslims of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al Jamâ`ah use these verses as proof of Allah’s divine decree and that everything that happens is by Allah’ decree. However, there are those who dispute this interpretation, saying that the verse means that Allah created everything in due proportion and suitable for its place and time.

Now, there is nothing preventing this from being one aspect of the verse’s meaning. At the same time, the verse conveys the meaning that everything occurs by Allah’s decree.

This is clear from the context in which the verse was revealed. Abû Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) relates:

That the pagan tribesmen of Quraysh came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and started to dispute with him about divine decree, so the verse was revealed: “On the day that they will be dragged into the Fire on their faces (hearing): ‘Taste ye the touch of Hell.’ Indeed We have created all things in decreed measure.” [Sûrah al-Qamar: 48-49] [Sahîh Muslim (2656)]

4. Explanation of the Qur’ân by way of practical example

A contemporary Muslim scholar, when asked about the commentary of the Qur’ân, made the astute observation that “the best commentary that exists on the Qur’ân is the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him), because the Prophet’s life – through his sayings, actions, and tacit approvals – was a practical expression of the Qur’ân.”

This is why `Â’ishah (radhiyallahu anha), when asked to describe her husband’s character, said: “The character of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was the Qur’ân.” [Sahîh Muslim  (746)]

Likewise, Jâbir (radhiyallahu anhu) said, while describing how the Prophet (peace be upon him) performed pilgrimage, said: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was with us and the Qur’ân was being revealed to him. He knew its meaning, and whatever he did, we followed him in doing it.” [Sahîh al-Bukharî  (1651)]

Jâbir (radhiyallahu anhu) was here speaking generally about the pilgrimage and all other matters.

The following are a few examples of how the Prophet’s practice explains the Qur’ân:

1.  The prayer of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is an excellent example. He commanded his followers: “Pray as you’ve seen me praying.” [Sahîh al-Bukharî  (631)]

In this way, all of the Prophet’s prayers are an explanation for Allah’s words in the Qur’ân: “Establish prayer.”  

2. His pilgrimage is another good example. The Prophet (peace be upon him) performed the pilgrimage and carried out all of its rites. He commanded his followers, saying: “Take from me your pilgrimage rites.” [Sahîh Muslim (1777)]

Everything that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did on his pilgrimage came as an explanation of Allah’s words: “Pilgrimage to the House is a duty that people owe to Allah.”  [Sûrah Al `Imrân: 97] 

3. In the same way, the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught the people how to fast by his own practical example. His actions explained to them how to understand the verse: “Fasting has been prescribed for you…” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 183]

4, The Prophet (peace be  upon him) showed us the various rates that must be paid for Zakâh, and in doing so provided us a practical  explanation of the verse: “And pay the Zakâh.”   [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 43]

5. A more specific example is the explanation of the verse: “Establish prayer at the Sun’s decline until the darkness of the night, and the morning recitation, for the morning recitation is witnessed.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 78]

This verse gives the time-frame for the five daily prayers.

A person has asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about the times of prayer and the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not tell him anything. Then he performed the dawn prayer with the people at the crack of dawn when it was still so dark that people could hardly make out one another’s features. He prayed the noon prayer with them just as the Sun began to decline from its zenith so that someone commented: “It is still high noon.” He led the afternoon prayer while the Sun was still quite high in the sky. He prayed the sunset prayer as soon as the Sun had dipped below the horizon. He performed the night prayer as soon as the red glow of dusk faded from the sky.

On the next day, the Prophet (peace be upon him) delayed the morning prayer so long that someone commented after the prayer was finished that the Sun  was practically rising. Then he delayed the noon prayer until it was almost the time he had performed the afternoon prayer on the previous day. He prayed the afternoon prayer so late that after the prayer was finished, someone commented that the Sun’s color had turned red. Then he delayed the sunset prayer until the ruddy glow of sunset had almost faded from the sky. Then he delayed the night prayer until a third of the night had passed.

On the following day, he summoned the questioner and said: “The times for the prayers are between the times that I prayed them.” [Sahîh Muslim  (614)]

6. In the Qur’ân, Allah describes the circuits that the pilgrims perform between Safâ’ and Marwah by saying: “Verily Mount Safâ and Mount Marwah are among the rites of Allah. So for those who make the greater or lesser pilgrimage to the House, there is no sin upon him to compass round them.” [Sûrah  al-Baqarah: 158] 

This verse shows us that performing this act is not prohibited. It also gives an indication that it is not obligatory to do so. However, when the Prophet (peace be upon him) performed this rite during his pilgrimage, he demonstrated its obligatory nature. This is why  `Â’ishah (radhiyallahu anha) said: “Allah will never accept as complete a greater or lesser pilgrimage from a person who does not walk the circuits between Safâ’ and Marwah.” [Sahîh al-Bukharî  (1790)]

From these examples, we can see that all of the Prophet’s words and deeds were an explanation of the Qur’ân. The great jurist al-Shâfi`î (rahimahullah) observed: “Every ruling that Allah’s Messenger gave came from his understanding of the Qur’ân.” [Refer to al-Itqân (2/467)]

We need to know that the Qur’ân and Sunnah are inseparable and that it is impossible for us to understand the Qur’ân except in light of the Sunnah.

May Allah grant us understanding of His Book and bless us to act according to it. And may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our prophet Muhammad  and upon the Prophet’s family and Companions.

Concept Of “Practicing Muslim” 100 years ago and during Present-Day

Concept of “practicing Muslim” 100 years ago:

➡ Studies ‘Ilm and is aware of the right beliefs and has a good amount of knowledge of several abwab of ‘Ilm.

➡ Salah in Jama’ah at the Mosque.

➡ Hours of Dhikr and Tilawah Daily

➡ Tahajjud at night

➡ Various Nawafil across Day & Night

➡ Wonderful Akhlaaq polished by company of Ahl Allah.

➡ Islamic values and mentality, rules interiorized in the Baatin as well as practiced on the Zaahir, and in all aspects (not only ‘ibadat, but also mu’amalat, mu’asharat, akhlaq, etc).

➡ You see him, you are reminded of Allah.

➡ His word means something, his promise is binding.

➡ Knows and personify the meaning of honor and manhood ( if a woman, of haya).

➡ Plural wives and Jariyat to keep his gaze at bay.

➡ Striving to implement Islam, Shari’ah and Sunnah at all levels.

➡ Holidays in some ribat.


Concept of “practicing Muslim” 2017:

➡ Fulfills the basics of a minimally valid iman..

➡ Does his fardh salah (may be as qada’ in the evening).

➡ Shows up for ‘Id and Jumu’ah.

➡ Replies to salaam

➡ Has a Muslim Name..

➡ You see him, you guess “he might be a Muslim..”

➡ Plans to marry with nikah after college, university, graduation, job, house and car.

Holiday in some so-called “halaal honeymoon” with his wife whose pics he posts for everyone enjoy.

Environment In the Qur’an


The Glorious Qur’an is the miraculous book of God, that falsehood can by no means approach. Allah, the Almighty, said about it, “We have not neglected in the Register a thing.” [Al-An`am 6:38]  

It is thus important to understand how the Qur’an tackled the environment, its components and balance, and how the Qur’an discussed the issue of the protection and development of the environment.

There are numerous verses in the Qur’an that deal in general with the issue of the environment, and some of them counted the elements and components of theenvironment accurately and inclusively, such as Allah’s saying, “To Him belongs what is in the heavens and what is on the earth and what is between them and what is under the soil.” [Ta-Ha  20:6]

The verse covers everything between heavens and earth, such as the sun, heat, wind, clouds and rain, which constitute the natural environment. The phrase “and what is under the soil,” refers to the underground materials, whether geological, metal or natural, that can be extracted and invested. Moreover, it includes the groundwater that can be pulled out and used for agriculture and settlement.

Among the verses that cover the elements of environment in general is Allah’s saying:

“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason.” [Al-Baqarah 2:164]

The verse gives a broader meaning of the environment to include, the earth, heavens, time, transportation-referred to by ships, water, clouds… All of this and the interactive operations that occur among them are only recognized by those who have active reason.

The following is a presentation of how the Qur’an discussed some of the elements of the environment:


Water is among the most important ecosystem elements in the Qur’an; therefore, it was mentioned in dozens of positions in the Glorious Qur’an, mostly in the context of reminding people of God’s blessings and graces upon them, topped by the grace of water.

Water draws its significance from the fact that it is the origin of life on this earth. Allah, the Almighty, told us about this in the following verses, 

“Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?” [Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:30]

“Allah has created every [living] creature from water. And of them are those that move on their bellies, and of them are those that walk on two legs, and of them are those that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills.” [An-Nur 24:45]

“And it is He who has created from water a human being and made him [a relative by] lineage and marriage.” [Al-Furqan 25:54]

The Qur’an talks about the functions of water in the following verse:

“Have they not seen that We drive the water [in clouds] to barren land and bring forth thereby crops from which their livestock eat and [they] themselves? Then do they not see?” [As-Sajdah 32:2]

In other contexts, the Qur’an points out the source of water in the following verses:  

“And it is He who sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby the growth of all things.” [Al-An`am 6:99]

“And We have sent down rain from the sky in a measured amount and settled it in the earth. And indeed, We are Able to take it away.” [Al-Mu’minun 23:18]

“And who sends down rain from the sky in measured amounts, and We revive thereby a dead land – thus will you be brought forth.”
[Az-Zukhruf 43:11]

Water is one of the greatest blessings of Allah – such as other elements of nature – but it may turn into a curse for those who disbelieve in God. Allah, the Almighty, informed us about some previous people who were drowned with water such as the people of Noah, as Allah says:

“And the people of Noah – when they denied the messengers, We drowned them, and We made them for mankind a sign. And We have prepared for the wrongdoers a painful punishment.” [Al-Furqan 25:37]

Also, the people of Pharaoh who disbelieved in Moses were drowned. Allah says:

“And [recall] when We parted the sea for you and saved you and drowned the people of Pharaoh while you were looking on.” [Al-Baqarah 2:50]

Seas and Rivers

Among the important elements of the environment that keep water and direct its use towards the benefit of people are the seas and oceans that God bestowed upon His slaves. God stated that its functions enable:

– Fishing, and extraction of ornaments and decorations, as indicated in Allah’s saying, “And it is He who subjected the sea for you to eat from it tender meat and to extract from it ornaments which you wear.” [An-Nahl 16:14]

– Transportation as the sea enables one of the most important means of transportation, namely ships. God has made it a manifestation of His honor of man as Allah made it easy for man to move by the use of the land and the sea. He, the Almighty, says,

“And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea.” [Al-Israa’ 17:70] 

“It is He who enables you to travel on land and sea.” [Yunus 10:22] 

“And subjected for you the ships to sail through the sea by His command and subjected for you the rivers.” [Ibrahim 14:32]

– The sea is a source of livelihood for many people, as Allah, the Almighty, says, 

“It is Allah who subjected to you the sea so that ships may sail upon it by His command and that you may seek of His bounty; and perhaps you will be grateful.”   [Al-Jathiyah 45:12]

Clouds and Rain

Among the elements of the environment associated with water are the clouds that carry water and then rain heavily on the earth so that people and cattle can drink that water. The wind has been mentioned repeatedly in the Qur’an as an act of obligation to people. For example, God says:

“And it is He who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy until, when they have carried heavy rainclouds, We drive them to a dead land and We send down rain therein and bring forth thereby [some] of all the fruits. Thus will We bring forth the dead; perhaps you may be reminded.”

Rain is considered a source of water, as Allah says:

“And We have sent the fertilizing winds and sent down water from the sky and given you drink from it. And you are not its retainers.”

He also says:

“And it is He who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy until, when they have carried heavy rainclouds, We drive them to a dead land and We send down rain therein and bring forth thereby [some] of all the fruits. Thus will We bring forth the dead; perhaps you may be reminded.” [Al-A`raf 7:57]

In another verse describing the mechanism of raining, Allah, the Almighty, says:

“Do you not see that Allah drives clouds? Then He brings them together, then He makes them into a mass, and you see the rain emerge from within it. And He sends down from the sky, mountains [of clouds] within which is hail, and He strikes with it whom He wills and averts it from whom He wills. The flash of its lightening almost takes away the eyesight.” [An-Nur 24:43]

Thunder and Lightening

Among the natural phenomena that accompany raining are lightning, a light-flash which  occurs as a result of electric charging operations in the atmosphere, and thunder which is a sound that occurs as a result of the sudden expansion of air due to sudden, severe heat resulting from lightning. Thunder and lightning storms result in the cumulonimbus clouds and cause very heavy rain.

Thunder and lightning are natural phenomena that stir fear and apprehension in the hearts of people; however, Allah mentioned them among the things that glorify and, along with angels, stand in awe of Him. He said:

“And the thunder exalts [Allah] with praise of Him – and the angels [as well] from fear of Him.” [Ar-Ra`d 13:13]


The mountains are among the important environmental elements mentioned in more than thirty positions in the Qur’an, some of which are related to their function in this life, and others are related to their situation on the Day of Resurrection. What matters to us here is their position as an element of the environment. The glorious Qur’an stated several functions of mountains including:

– Mountains serve as pegs that sustain the balance and stability of the earth, since, Allah, the Almighty, mentions them as a grace for His creation,

“Have We not made the earth a resting place? And the mountains as stakes?”  [An-Naba’ 78:6-7] 

The Qur’an stressed this meaning in many verses in nine times describing mountains as “firmly set” as Allah says, 

“And We placed within the earth firmly set mountains, lest it should shift with them.” [Al-Anbiya’ 21:31] 

Also, He says, “And We placed therein lofty, firmly set mountains and have given you to drink sweet water.” [Al-Mursalat 77:27]

– One of the functions of mountains is that they can be used as a place for people to live inside them, as God says about the people of Al-Hijr “And they used to carve from the mountains, houses, feeling secure.” [Al-Hijr 15-82] 

God states in other positions the same meaning. He says: 

“And you carve out of the mountains, homes, with skill.”   [Ash-Shu`ara’  26:149], 

“And Allah has made for you, from that which He has created,  shadows and has made for you from the mountains, shelters…”    [An-Nahl 16:81]  

This is not limited to humans only, but also extends to other creatures as Allah says,

“And your Lord inspired to the bee, ‘Take for yourself among the mountains, houses.’” [An-Nahl  16:68]

– Mountains contribute to the formation of clouds and rain due to their streamlined shape. Therefore, the Qur’an linked in many verses between the mountains on the one hand and rain, water, and rivers on the other hand, such as the following verses:

“And it is He who spread the earth and placed therein firmly set mountains and rivers…” [Ar-Ra`d 13:3]

“And We placed therein lofty, firmly set mountains and have given you to drink sweet water.” [Al-Mursalat 77:27]

– The multiplicity of the types of mountains and their colors is a kind of adornment in the earth, and an indication of the Omnipotence of Allah, the Almighty, as Allah says,

“Do you not see that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby fruits of varying colors? And in the mountains are tracts, white and red of varying shades and [some] extremely black.”


Cattle are among the key environmental elements which Allah has put for the service of man, though they share with him using up other elements of the environment such as water, air, plants, etc.

The word An`am (cattle) has been mentioned 32 times in the Qur’an, including the following verses that point out Allah’s graces,

“Do they not see that We have created for them from what Our hands have made, grazing livestock, and [then] they are their owners? And We have tamed them for them, so some of them they ride, and some of them they eat. And for them therein are [other] benefits and drinks, so will they not be grateful?”

Allah, the Almighty, mentions eight kinds of cattle as He says,

“He created you from one soul. Then He made from it its mate, and He produced for you from the grazing livestock eight mates.” [Az-Zumar 39:6]

In another position, Allah explained what He meant by eight mates in the surah entitled Al-An`am as He said,

“[They are] eight mates – of the sheep, two and of the goats, two. Say, “Is it the two males He has forbidden or the two females or that which the wombs of the two females contain? Inform me with knowledge, if you should be truthful.” And of the camels, two and of the cattle, two. Say, “Is it the two males He has forbidden or the two females or that which the wombs of the two females contain? Or were you witnesses when Allah charged you with this? Then who is more unjust than one who invents a lie about Allah to mislead the people by [something] other than knowledge? Indeed, Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.” [Al-An`am  6:143-144]

Cattle are communities like humans, as Allah, the Almighty, says,

“And there is no creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its wings except [that they are] communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.” [Al-An`am 6:38]

The Qur’an has touched on different types of cattle but we will rest only on the following:

1. Camels  
They were mentioned two times in the Qur’an, the first in the aforementioned verses and the second in the following verse, 

“Then do they not look at the camels – how they are created?”    [Al-Ghashiyah 88:1]

This verse directs us to reflection and contemplation on the creation of camels and how they are prepared for bearing heavy loads in harsh environmental conditions. Modern science has discovered a lot of miracles in camels, and the secrets and wisdoms that Almighty Creator has put in them.

2. Cows
The cow is mentioned in both singular and plural forms in nine positions in the Qur’an, the most well-known of which is the story of the cow of the Children of Israel. Allah, the Almighty, says,

“And [recall] when Moses said to his people, “Indeed, Allah commands you to slaughter a cow.” They said, “Do you take us in ridicule?” He said, “I seek refuge in Allah from being among the ignorant.” They said, “Call upon your Lord to make clear to us what it is.” [Moses] said, “[Allah] says, ‘It is a cow which is neither old nor virgin, but median between that,’ so do what you are commanded.” They said, “Call upon your Lord to show us what is her color.” He said, “He says, ‘It is a yellow cow, bright in color – pleasing to the observers.'” They said, “Call upon your Lord to make clear to us what it is. Indeed, [all] cows look alike to us. And indeed we, if Allah wills, will be guided.” He said, “He says, ‘It is a cow neither trained to plow the earth nor to irrigate the field, one free from fault with no spot upon her.’ “They said, “Now you have come with the truth.” So they slaughtered her, but they could hardly do it.” [Al-Baqarah 2:67-71]

The distinguished characteristics of cows and how to choose them may be learnt from the above verses.

3. Sheep and Goats

They have been mentioned in Allah’s saying,

“[They are] eight mates – of the sheep, two and of the goats,  two. Say, “Is it the two males He has forbidden or the two females or that which the wombs of the two females contain? Inform me with knowledge, if you should be truthful.” [Al-An`am 6:143]

The Qur’an refers to both of them in three positions as God says,

“And to those who are Jews We prohibited every animal of uncloven hoof; and of the cattle and the sheep We prohibited to them their fat, except what adheres to their backs or the entrails or what is joined with bone.” [Al-An`am  6:146]

Also, He says,

“And what is that in your right hand, O Moses?” He said, “It is my staff; I lean upon it, and I bring down leaves for my sheep and I have therein other uses.” [Ta-Ha  20:17-18]

4. Horses, Mules and Donkeys

They have been mentioned in Allah’s saying,

“And [He created] the horses, mules and donkeys for you to ride and [as] adornment. And He creates that which you do not know.” [An-Nahl 16:8]

Horses were mentioned alone two times in the Qur’an. The first time is in the context of what people love. God says,

“Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire – of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land.” [Aal `Imran 3:14]

In the second time, horses were mentioned in the context of battle and terrifying the enemies of God, as Allah, the Almighty, says,

“And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy.” [Al-Anfal 8:60]



In particular I address the Ulama and students of the Deen and say, You content yourself with pride on account of only the possession of knowledge. You consider yourself qualified for the lofty ranks of ‘ilm. Every now and again, whether appropriate or inappropriate, you quote to the masses the Hadith, ‘The superiority of an Aalim over an Abid is like my (i.e. Rasullulah’s – Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) superiority over the most inferior amongst you.’

But, are you aware what kind of knowledge has this excellence? Does this superiority only apply to knowledge or knowledge accompanied with practise? If there were no dire warning of punishments in the Kitaab and Sunnah for non-practising Ulama, then to some degree your averment could be entertained. But, when there are these warnings (in the Quran and Hadith) how can knowledge alone be a medium of pride.

You display considerable pride, thinking, ‘We are Ulama.’ Remember, without self-annihilation you are nothing. You have to annihilate yourself and understand that you are nothing. As long as you have not attained this attribute of self-annihilation then understand you are ruined.

Man should never have pride, no matter what pedestal he occupies. How can he have pride when he is an embodiment of defects and faults? Always strive in pursuit of cultivating humility. Only then will there be safety. If humility is not inculcated, there will be no safety ahead.

Nowadays some (learned ones) suffer under the deception that delivering a speech in Arabic is a great excellence and a source of pride. I maintain that no matter how eloquent you become in Arabic and even if you become Abul ‘Ilm (the father of knowledge), you will not be able to converse in Arabic as Abu Jahl had. If only knowledge of Arabic and ability to speak in Arabic were ‘ilm, then Abu Jahl would be a greater Aalim. But, in spite of the superiority of his Arabic, he remained Abu Jahl (the father of the ignorant).

Nowadays, once a person has studied a couple of Arabic books, he is given the title of Molvi whereas in actual fact he is not a Molvi. A Molvi is a person who understands the laws of the Shariah and practises accordingly in both the Zaahiri and Baatini spheres. He has to be a man of Allah. A man of Allah is never a jaahil.

I take qasam (oath) and say if the greatness of Allah Ta’aala enters into the heart, you will become ashamed if someone addresses you as ‘Maulana Sahib’, ‘Hafiz Sahib’, etc. When one gains kamaal (perfection or excellence in the moral and spiritual realms) then one will realize that one is in actual fact a jaahil.

I always maintain that the Ulama are in greater need of moral reformation. We (i.e. Molvis) do very little, but publicize it (our little) much because the desire is only to create a name among people.

“Nowadays the Talabah (students of Deeni Madaaris) are not concerned with Uloom (true knowledge). Their concern is simply to complete a course (of study). They consider it a great Mi’raaj (ascension into the heavens), progress and perfection to have a big turban tied around their heads and be doled out a long certificate. Thus, they (think) they have become Molvis and Maulanas. However, this is not an occasion of happiness nor a sign of having achieved any excellence (kamaal). Nowadays some students although they are turbaned (and officially titled Molvi), lack entirely in ‘ilm and aql (intelligence).


“Hadhrat Abu Barzah Aslami (radhiyallahu anhu) narrated that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) detested sleeping before Isha and speaking after Isha.”

Commenting on this Hadith Mullah Ali Qaari (rahimahullah) says:

“This discussion deals with such talk which is prohibited after Isha’ Salaat. The reference here (in the Hadith) to detestable talk is to such conversation which is (normally) permissible. As far as haraam conversation is concerned, it remains haraam at all times, not only after Isha’.” [Umdatul Qaari]

It is because of the detestation for conversation after Isha’ that it is Mustahab to delay Isha’ Salaat until one third of the night has passed. Commenting on this fact, Badaaius Sanaa’ states: “If Isha’ is performed early during winter, people will generally indulge in futile conversation after the Salaat because people usually do not go to sleep before one third of the night has passed on account of the long nights (of winter). Thus they will indulge in futile talk as is their habit, and this is forbidden. Furthermore, it is best that a person’s Book of Deeds (for the day) closes with worship than with sin (such as indulgence in futile talk).

All acts of futility even if permissible at other times, are prohibited after Isha’ Salaat. The Qur’aan Majeed in several aayaat emphasizes that Allah Ta’ala has created the night for rest and sleep. The night is not for indulgence in futility and nonsensical activities. Squandering the time with friends, fishing, sport and idle conversation are not permissible.

Deeni activity as well as beneficial worldly activity are permissible after Isha’. The night is also the right of the wife and the family. Conversation with the wife and children after Isha’ is excluded from the prohibition.

Commenting on the practice of idle conversation after Isha’, Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayh) said:

“According to the Hadith conversation after Isha’ is prohibited and Makrooh. This was my belief even during my student days. However, I did not at that time understand the harm of this prohibition. But, now, Alhamdulillah, I have developed such an aversion (for conversation after Isha’) that, in all truth, if someone after Isha’ comes and even stands in front of me, anger overwhelms me so much that I feel like putting a bullet through him. This is the effect of the suhbat (companionship) of the illustrious seniors.”

Contentment Of the Awliya

[By Mujlisul Ulama]

RASULULLAH (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“Of the good fortune of the Son of Aadam is that he is pleased (and contented) with whatever Allah has decreed for him.”

Whenever Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) would become ill, he would not act according to the advice of the physician. Once when he was sick, and told to call a physician, he replied: “By Allah! If I know that my cure (from this sickness) is simply to touch my ear, then never would I do so. Whatever Allah Azza Wa Jal decrees is best.”

When Hadhrat Shaddaad Bin Hakeem (rahmatullah alayh) became sick, he distributed a hundred dirhams (silver coins) to the poor in gratitude for the sickness.

When Hadhrat Abu Bakr Ayyaash (rahmatullah alayh) became ill, people called a Christian physician to attend to him. However, Hadhrat Ayyaash did not allow the doctor to even touch him. He refused to submit to diagnosis. As the doctor departed, Hadhrat Ayyaash (rahmatullah alayh) made dua: “O Allah! Just as you have saved me from the pain of kufr, do with me as you deem fit.”

This was the attitude of the Aarifeen and the great Auliya. They were always contented with whatever condition Allah Ta’ala decreed for them. While medical treatment is permissible, it is not compulsory. Abstention from medical treatment is based on Tawakkul and Ridha (being pleased and contented with Allah’s decrees).

While the masses cannot emulate the Auliya in such lofty attitudes, they should at least adhere to the minimum demand, which is: never to complain in times of adversity and hardship. While dua for removal of the calamity is permissible, complaining is not permissible. Complaint against the decrees of Allah Azza Wa Jal is unintelligent and it approaches the confines of kufr.

Christmas during Pre-Christianity Era

In ancient pagan times, the last day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere was celebrated as the night that the Great Mother Goddess gives birth to the baby Sun God. It is also called Yule, the day a huge log is added to a bonfire, around which everyone would dance and sing to awaken the sun from its long winter sleep.

In Roman times, it became the celebrations honouring Saturnus (the harvest god) and Mithras (the ancient god of light), a form of sun worship that had come to Rome from Syria a century before with the cult of Sol Invictus. It announced that winter is not forever, that life continues, and an invitation to stay in good spirit.

The last day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere occurs between the 20th and 22 December. The Roman celebrated Saturnalia between 17 and 24 December.

The early Christians
To avoid persecution during the Roman pagan festival, early Christians decked their homes with Saturnalia holly. As Christian numbers increased and their customs prevailed, the celebrations took on a Christian observance. But the early church actually did not celebrate the birth of Christ in December until Telesphorus, who was the second Bishop of Rome from 125 to 136AD, declared that Church services should be held during this time to celebrate “The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour.” However, since no-one was quite sure in which month Christ was born, Nativity was often held in September, which was during the Jewish Feast of Trumpets (modern-day Rosh Hashanah). In fact, for more than 300 years, people observed the birth of Jesus on various dates.

In the year 274AD, solstice fell on 25th December. Roman Emperor Aurelian proclaimed the date as “Natalis Solis Invicti,” the festival of the birth of the invincible sun. In 320 AD, Pope Julius I specified the 25th of December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Christmas official, but not generally observed 
In 325 AD, Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, introduced Christmas as an immovable feast on 25 December. He also introduced Sunday as a holy day in a new 7-day week, and introduced movable feasts (Easter). In 354 AD, Bishop Liberius of Rome officially ordered his members to celebrate the birth of Jesus on 25 December.

However, even though Constantine officiated 25 December as the birthday of Christ, Christians, recognising the date as a pagan festival, did not share in the emperor’s good meaning. Christmas failed to gain universal recognition among Christians until quite recently. In England, Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas festivities between 1649 and 1660 through the so-called Blue Laws, believing that Christmas should be a solemn day.

When many Protestants escaped persecution by fleeing to the colonies all over the world, interest in joyous Christmas celebrations was rekindled there. Still, Christmas was not even a legal holiday until the 1800s. And, keep in mind, there was no Father Christmas (Santa Claus) figure at that time.

Christmas becomes popular
The popularity of Christmas was spurred on in 1820 by Washington Irving’s book The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall. In 1834, Britain’s Queen Victoria brought her German husband, Prince Albert, into Windsor Castle, introducing the tradition of the Christmas tree and carols that were held in Europe to the British Empire. A week before Christmas in 1834, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol (in which he wrote that Scrooge required Cratchit to work, and that the US Congress met on Christmas Day). It was so popular that neither the churches nor the governments could not ignore the importance of Christmas celebrations. In 1836, Alabama became the first state in the US to declare Christmas a legal holiday. In 1837, T.H. Hervey’s The Book of Christmas also became a best seller. In 1860, American illustrator Thomas Nast borrowed from the European stories about Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, to create Father Christmas (Santa Claus). In 1907, Oklahoma became the last US state to declare Christmas a legal holiday. Year by year, countries all over the world started to recognise Christmas as the day for celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Today, many of the pagan uses are reflected in Christmas. Jesus was born in March or April, yet his birth is celebrated on 25 December, the time of solstice. The Christmas celebrations end the 12th day of Christmas (6 January), the same amount of days that the return of the sun was celebrated by ancient and Roman pagans. It thus is no surprise that Christian puritans – or even conservative Christians – often are upset that Christmas “is not as religious as it was meant to be,”  forgetting that Christmas was not celebrated at all until fairly recently.


What Did Jesus Say About Christmas?

The Christmas Experience

The perfect Christmas tree is bought. Adorned with ornaments and glittering with tinsel, it stands by the window. The stores are crammed with shoppers hunting for presents and the little ones anxiously waiting for Santa.

Busy with Christmas fever, wonder did you ever, did the Bible or Jesus made any injunction on Christmas ever?

Ponder upon the following analysis on Christmas, and the Truth will become clearer and clearer.

Does Christmas have Biblical Evidence?

The word ‘Christmas’ does not exist in the Bible. The Bible has closed lips on the entire feast of Christmas, with one exception, the decoration of a tree. The Bible itself criticizes the decoration of the (Christmas) trees:

“The customs of the people are worthless, they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel, they adore it with silver and gold, they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter” (Jeremiah 10-3,4).

European Pre-Christian pagans superstitiously believed that the green trees had special protective powers. In fact the use of the Christmas tree began only in the 17th century in Strasbourg, France and from there it spread to Germany, Britain and then to the U.S.

“Tree worship was a common feature of religion among the Teutonic and Scandinavian peoples of northern Europe before their conversion to Christianity…German settlers brought the Christmas tree custom to the American colonies in the 17th century. By the 19th century its use was quite widespread”. (Compton’s Encyclopedia, 1998 Edition)

Was Jesus born on Dec. 25?

Neither the date 25th Dec. nor any other date on Jesus’ birth is mentioned in the Bible. It was not until the year 530 C.E. that a monk, Dionysus Exigus, fixed the date of Jesus’ birth on Dec. 25th. . “He wrongly dated the birth of Christ according to the Roman system (i.e., 754 years after the founding of Rome) as Dec. 25, 753”. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1998 ed.) This date was chosen in keeping with the holidays already indoctrinated into pagans beliefs.

Roman pagans celebrated Dec. 25th as the birth of their ‘god’ of light, Mithra.

“In the 2nd century A..D., it (Mithraism) was more general in the Roman Empire than Christianity, to which it bore many similarities” (The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, 1995 ed.)

Other pagan ‘gods’ born on Dec. 25th are: Hercules the son of Zeus (Greeks); Bacchus, ‘god’ of wine (Romans); Adonis, ‘god’ of Greeks, and ‘god’ Freyr of Greek-Roman pagans.

What about Santa Claus?

If aliens descended on earth during the Christmas season, they would undoubtedly believe Christmas as being Santa’s birthday. The words ‘Santa Claus’, appear nowhere in the Bible.

However, Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) was a real person, a bishop, who was born 300 years after Jesus. According to legend, he was extremely kind and set out at night to bring presents to the needy. After his death on 6th of Dec., school boys in Europe began celebrating a feast day each year.

Queen Victoria later changed the celebration date from Dec. 6th to Dec. 24th eve.

Did Jesus or his Companions Celebrate Christmas?

If Jesus meant his followers to celebrate Christmas, he would have practiced it himself and enjoined it on his followers. There is no mention in the entire Bible that any of his followers ever celebrated Jesus’ birthday like Christians do today.

“The church did not observe a festival for the celebration of the event of Christmas until the 4th century” (Grolier’s Encyclopedia)

Thus we see that neither the Bible nor Jesus and his companions say anything about the celebration of Christmas which currently involves fanfare, commercialization, and extravagant spending, devoid of any spiritual relevance.

Ruling on Christmas & New Year

Praise be to Allah.

Ibn Taymiyah said in his commentary on the ayah (interpretation of the meaning), “And those who do not witness falsehood [al-zoor]…” [al-Furqaan 25:72]: As regards the festivals of the mushrikeen: they combine confusion, physical desires and falsehood, there is nothing in them that is of any religious benefit, and the instant gratification involved in them only ends up in pain. Thus they are falsehood, and witnessing them means attending them.This ayah itself praises and commends (those who do not witness falsehood), which has the meaning of urging people to avoid taking part in their festivals and other kinds of falsehood. We understand that it is bad to attend their festivals because they are called al-zoor  (falsehood). It indicates that it is haraam to do this for many reasons, because Allah. has called it al-zoor.

Allah condemns the one who speaks falsehood [al-zoor] even if no-one else is harmed by it, as in the ayah forbidding zihaar [a form of divorce in which the man says to his wife “You are to me like the back of my mother”], where He says (interpretation of the meaning): “… And verily, they utter an ill word and a lie [zooran]…” [al-Mujaadilah 58:2]. And Allah. says (interpretation of the meaning): “… So shun the abomination of idols, and shun lying speech (false statements) [al-zoor].” [al-Hajj 22:30]. So the one who does al-zoor is condemned in this fashion. In the Sunnah: Anas ibn Maalik (may Allah. be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah. (peace and blessings of Allah. be upon him) came [to Madeenah] and they had two days in which they would (relax and) play. He said, “What are these two days?” They said, “We used to play (on these two days) during the Jaahiliyyah.” The Messenger of Allah. (peace and blessings of Allah. be upon him) said: “Allah. has given you something better instead of them: Yawm al-Duhaa [Eid al-Adha] and Yawm al-Fitr [Eid al-Fitr].” (Reported by Abu Dawood). This indicates clearly that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah. be upon him) definitely forbade his ummah to celebrate the festivals of the kuffaar, and he strove to wipe them out by all possible means.

The fact that the religion of the People of the Book is accepted does not mean that their festivals are approved of or should be preserved by the ummah, just as the rest of their kufr and sins are not approved of. Indeed, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah. be upon him) went to great lengths to command his ummah to be different from them in many issues that are mubaah (permitted) and in many ways of worship, lest that lead them to be like them in other matters too. This being different was to be a barrier in all aspects, because the more different you are from the people of Hell, the less likely you are to do the acts of the people of Hell.The first of them is: The hadeeth “Every people has its festival, and this is our festival” implies exclusivity, that every people has its own festival, as Allah. says (interpretation of the meaning): “For every nation there is a direction to which they face (in their prayers)…” [al-Baqarah 2:148] and “… To each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way…” [al-Maa’idah 5:48]. This implies that each nation has its own ways. The laam in li-kulli  [“for every”, “to each”] implies exclusivity. So if the Jews have a festival and the Christians have a festival, it is just for them, and we should not have any part in it, just as we do not share their qiblah (direction of prayer) or their laws. The second of them is: one of the conditions set out by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allah. be pleased with him) and agreed upon by the Sahaabah and by all the Fuqaha’ after them is: that those of the People of the Book who have agreed to live under Islamic rule (ahl al-dhimmah) should not celebrate their festivals openly in Daar al-Islam (lands under Islamic rule). If the Muslims have agreed to prevent them from celebrating openly, how could it be right for the Muslims to celebrate them? If a Muslim celebrates them, is that not worse than if a kaafir does so openly?

The only reason that we forbade them to celebrate their festivals openly is because of the corruption involved in them, because of the sin or symbols of sin. In either case, the Muslim is forbidden from sin or the symbols of sin. Even if there was no evil involved apart from the kaafir feeling encouraged to celebrate openly because of the Muslim’s actions, how can a Muslim do that? The evil involved (in their festivals) will be explained below, in sha Allah.Al-Bayhaqi reported with a saheeh isnaad in Baab karaahiyat al-dukhool ‘ala ahl al-dhimmah fi kanaa’isihim wa’l-tashabbuh bihim yawmi nawroozihim wa maharjaanihim  (Chapter on the abhorrence of entering the churches of ahl al-dhimmah on the occasion of their New Year and other celebrations): From Sufyaan al-Thawri from Thawr ibn Yazeed from ‘Ata’ ibn Deenaar who said: ‘Umar said: “Do not learn the language of the non-Arabs, do not enter upon the mushrikeen in their churches on their feast-days, for the wrath (of Allaah) is descending upon them.” ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab said: “Avoid the enemies of Allaah on their festivals.” It was reported with a saheeh isnaad from Abu Usaamah: ‘Awn told us from Abu’l-Mugheerah from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr: “Whoever lives in the land of the non-Arabs and celebrates their New Year and their festivals, and imitates them until he dies in that state, will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection.” ‘Umar forbade learning their languages, and even entering their churches on the day of their festival, so how about doing some of the things they do on those days, or doing things that are a part of their religion? Is not going along with their actions worse than learning their language? Is not doing some of the things they do on their festival worse than just entering upon them? If divine wrath is descending upon them on the day of their festival because of what they do, then is not the one who does what they do, or a part of it, also exposed to the same punishment? Do not the words “Avoid the enemies of Allaah on their festivals” mean that we should not meet them or join them on those days? So how about the one who actually celebrates their festivals?

‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr clearly stated: “Whoever lives in the land of the non-Arabs and celebrates their New Year and their festivals, and imitates them until he dies in that state, will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection.” This implies that the one who joins in with them in all of these matters is a kaafir, or that doing this is one of the major sins (kabaa’ir) that will doom one to Hell; the former meaning is what is apparent from the wording.He mentioned – and Allaah knows best – the one who lives in their land, because at the time of ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr and the other Sahaabah, they used to forbid open celebration of kaafir festivals in the Muslim lands, and none of the Muslims imitated them in their festivals; that was possible only when living in the lands of the kaafirs. ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) refused to even acknowledge the name of their festivals which were exclusively theirs, so how about actually celebrating them? Ahmad mentioned the meaning of the reports narrated from ‘Umar and ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with them) on this topic, and his companions discussed the matter of festivals.

Imaam Abu’l-Hasan al-Aamidi said: the one who is known as Ibn al-Baghdaadi said in his book ‘Umdat al-Haadir wa Kifaayat al-Musaafir: “It is not permitted to attend the festivals of the Christians and Jews. Ahmad stated this in the report of Muhannaa, and his evidence for that is the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): ‘And those who do not witness falsehood [al-zoor]…’ [al-Furqaan 25:72]. He said: (This is) al-Sha’aaneen and their festivals. He said: The Muslims are to be prevented from entering upon them in their synagogues and churches.”

From Iqtida’ al-Siraat al-Mustaqeem Mukhaalifat Ashaab al-Jaheem by Ibn Taymiyah, p. 183.

Greeting the kuffaar on Christmas and other religious holidays of theirs is haraam, by consensus, as Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allaah have mercy on him, said in Ahkaam Ahl al-Dhimmah: “Congratulating the kuffaar on the rituals that belong only to them is haraam by consensus, as is congratulating them on their festivals and fasts by saying ‘A happy festival to you’ or ‘May you enjoy your festival,’ and so on. If the one who says this has been saved from kufr, it is still forbidden. It is like congratulating someone for prostrating to the cross, or even worse than that. It is as great a sin as congratulating someone for drinking wine, or murdering someone, or having illicit sexual relations, and so on. Many of those who have no respect for their religion fall into this error; they do not realize the offensiveness of their actions. Whoever congratulates a person for his disobedience or bid’ah or kufr exposes himself to the wrath and anger of Allaah.” 

Congratulating the kuffaar on their religious festivals is haraam to the extent described by Ibn al-Qayyim because it implies that one accepts or approves of their rituals of kufr, even if one would not accept those things for oneself. But the Muslim should not aceept the rituals of kufr or congratulate anyone else for them, because Allaah does not accept any of that at all, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):  “If you disbelieve, then verily, Allaah is not in need of you, He likes not disbelief for His slaves. And if you are grateful (by being believers), He is pleased therewith for you. . .” [al-Zumar 39:7] “. . . This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islaam as your religion . . .” [al-Maa’idah 5:3] So congratulating them is forbidden, whether they are one’s colleagues at work or otherwise. If they greet us on the occasion of their festivals, we should not respond, because these are not our festivals, and because they are not festivals which are acceptable to Allaah. These festivals are innovations in their religions, and even those which may have been prescribed formerly have been abrogated by the religion of Islaam, with which Allaah sent Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) to the whole of mankind. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): 

Whoever seeks a religion other than Islaam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:85] 

It is haraam for a Muslim to accept invitations on such occasions, because this is worse than congratulating them as it implies taking part in their celebrations. Similarly, Muslims are forbidden to imitate the kuffaar by having parties on such occasions, or exchanging gifts, or giving out sweets or food, or taking time off work, etc., because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.”

Ibn Taymiyah said in his book Iqtidaa’ al-siraat al-mustaqeem mukhaalifat ashaab al-jaheem: “Imitating them in some of their festivals implies that one is pleased with their false beliefs and practices, and gives them the hope that they may have the opportunity to humiliate and mislead the weak.” Whoever does anything of this sort is a sinner, whether he does it out of politeness or to be friendly, or because he is too shy to refuse, or for whatever other reason, because this is hypocrisy in Islaam, and because it makes the kuffaar feel proud of their religion. 

Allaah is the One Whom we ask to make the Muslims feel proud of their religion, to help them adhere steadfastly to it, and to make them victorious over their enemies, for He is the Strong and Omnipotent.