001  Al Fâtihah
002  Al Baqarah
003  Âl 'Imrân
004  An Nisâ'
005  Al Mâ'idah
006  Al An'âm
007  Al A'râf
008  Al Anfâl
009  At Taubah
010  Yûnus
011  Hûd
012  Yûsuf
013  Ar Ra'd
014  Ibrahîm
015  Al Hijr
016  An Nahl
017  Al Isrâ'
018  Al Kahf
019  Maryam
020  Tâ Hâ
021  Al Anbiyâ'
022  Al Hajj
023  Al Mu'minûn
024  An Nûr
025  Al Furqân
026  Ash Shu'arâ'
027  An Naml
028  Al Qasas
029  Al 'Ankabût
030  Ar Rûm
031  Luqmân
032  As Sajdah
033  Al Ahzâb
034  Saba'
035  Fâtir
036  Yâ Sîn
037  As Sâffât
038  Sâd
039  Az Zumar
040  Ghâfir
041  Fussilat
042  Ash-Shûra
043  Az Zukhruf
044  Ad Dukhân
045  Al Jâthiya
046  Al Ahqâf
047  Muhammad
048  Al Fath
049  Al Hujurât
050  Qâf
051  Az Zâriyât
052  At Tûr
053  An Najm
054  Al Qamar
055  Ar Rahmân
056  Al Wâqi'ah
057  Al Hadîd
058  Al Mujâdilah
059  Al Hashr
060  Al Mumtahinah
061  As Saff
062  Al Jumu'ah
063  Al Munafiqûn
064  At Taghâbun
065  At Talâq
066  At Tahrîm
067  Al Mulk
068  Al Qalam
069  Al Hâqqah
070  Al Ma'ârij
071  Nûh
072  Al Jinn
073  Al Muzzammil
074  Al Muddaththir
075  Al Qiyâmah
076  Al Insân
077  Al Mursalât
078  An Naba'
079  An Nazi'ât
080  'Abasa
081  At-Takwîr
082  Al Infitâr
083  Al Mutaffifîn
084  Al Inshiqâq
085  Al Burûj
086  At Târiq
087  Al A'lâ
088  Al Ghâshiyah
089  Al Fajr
090  Al Balad
091  Ash-Shams
092  Al Lail
093  Ad Duha
094  Ash Sharh
095  At Tin
096  Al 'Alaq
097  Al Qadr
098  Al Baiyinah
099  Az-Zalzalah
100  Al 'Adiyât
101  Al Qâri'ah
102  At Takâthur
103  Al 'Asr
104  Al Humazah
105  Al Fîl
106  Quraish
107  Al Mâ'ûn
108  Al Kauthar
109  Al Kâfirûn
110  An Nasr
111  Al Masad
112  Al Ikhlâs
113  Al Falaq
114  An Nâs

Introduction

All Praise is to Allah. We Praise Him and we ask Him for help and guidance. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil within ourselves and our wrong doings. Whomever Allah guides shall never be misguided and whomever Allah misguides shall never be brought aright. Therefore I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah, and He is Alone and I bear witness that Muhammad (SAW) was His ‘abd and His last Messenger.

Insha’allah ta’ala this essay is an attempt to inform the reader of what the importance is of learning the Quran in our religion of Islam. It is to make a proposal to those who wish to learn about this marvelous book. The proposal is, that the learner open his/her mind and the writer provide the evidence for the truth, wish should Insha’allah, without doubt, be accepted. This book called Al-Quran, comes from the word ‘qara which lexically means to recite. Therefore we know it is a book from Allah (SWT) for us to read, recite, learn and understand. Now the question lies at, how does an English person understand the Quran, which is written and recited in Arabic? The answer is simple. Firstly the learner must learn how to read Arabic, because the Quran does not remain the Quran once the Arabic is removed. Secondly while they are in the process of learning the lexical Arabic language on the whole, they can start off my translation of the meanings of the Quran in English. Many different writers over the past decade, have been attempting to write various translations of the Quran in the English language. They are even available in French, Spanish, Italian, Urdu, Malay etc. These translations are readily available for people to read and learn from in every Islamic bookstore, Internet web-site, libraries etc. Even though there are so many various translations of the meanings in the Noble Quran, still one is quite a bit of a danger. Surely one will ask themselves, "what danger could a translation of the Quran be of?" In reality, there are many dangers regarding this issue. Namely it is because of people who have not had enough learning or experience in the area of exegesis (tafseer), but they decide to write a tafseer anyway. Sometimes it is due to lack of understanding of the lexical Arabic language and sometimes it is due to one not using the proper sources.

When a person is going to write a tafseer of the Quran, they have to be extremely careful about what they write because theses are the words of Allah, which are being expounded on and clarified. Being careful encompasses having the correct methodology of writing tafseers and having knowledgeable "scholars" supervising the work. To continue, this essay will provide some clear evidence on what the correct methodology of tafseer is and what the danger is in attributing something to Allah’s book that does not belong. Also, some concentration will be diverted towards and comparison study of various tafseers in the English language. By the end of this essay the reader should have a clear idea in what to search for when trying to gain knowledge and what to avoid regarding matters of doubt and error.

What is Tafseer?

When it comes to defining a Arabic term such as this word, one must go to the root of the word to see what it means. The word tafseer, comes from the root fasar which means to uncover or display. Now, when one is going to uncover or display something, which was previously somewhat covered and hard to comprehend, then it will be like clarifying or expounding that thing. So this leads to explaining what the thing is by laying it out in the open. In the Quran the word tafseer is used as further explanation for this word,

Allah (SWT) says (what may be translated into);

" For any parable they bring, I will bring you the truth and a better explanation (tafseerun)" [1]

So here the term means to explain. In the area of Ulum al-Quran, this term is defined as a branch of knowledge by which the Quran is understood, its meanings explained, and its points of law and wisdom derived. [2]

Now that the definition of tafseer has been clarified, one must go on to understand why tafseer is so important and how is it done.

Importance and Methodology of Tafseer

There are many reasons why it is so important for knowledgeable people to provide us with tafseers of the Quran. This is a general statement for all Muslims whether they be English-speaking or Arabic-speaking. Everyone needs to understand the Quran and without expounding and clarifying the meanings of it, it is impossible to understand all of it. The Arabic-speaking individual might think that they need no explanation of the Quran, but they will be in grave error to think so. Firstly, because the language of the Quran is a special Arabic that was spoken at the time it was revealed, by the people who witnessed the revelations. This language is not spoken anymore, it is almost non-existent in the world except for what is in the Quran. Also certain Arabic words can have multiple meanings, so if one does not research the meaning behind a certain word in a certain verse, then they might very wrongly interpret it. It has to be understood that many portions of the Quran are pretty clear and self-explanatory and need not be explained, but other parts may lead to some major confusion if the person does not know, who the verse is referring to, what the story is, in what time period did this take place? This is called Azbaab un-Nuzul. To know all of this, implies that one must seek knowledge of the Quran from the proper sources of tafseer.

Further studying leads to the concern of how one must judge if a tafseer is written properly or not. This is not an easy task to do, but after knowing how a tafseer is initially supposed to be written it should make it somewhat more apparent to the reader when they see something wrong in it. It has to first be understood that the Quran is one Book and it has one meaning or message. It cannot be one Book with many different implications. So if there are many tafseer books and they are all different, it should be understood that all of them cannot be correct. A tafseer cannot be written on someone’s mere knowledge of the deen. They cannot pick up Allah’s book and start to interpret its meanings however they understand it. The reason is that is someone misinterprets the Quran then they are attributing something to Allah’s speech which Allah (SWT) never said. This is indeed a grave sin, for Allah (SWT) has stated in the Quran (what may be translated to mean),

"Who can be more wicked then one who invents a lie against Allah….." [3]

and,

"And yet among men are such as dispute about Allah without knowledge and flow every Satan obstinate in rebellion" [4]

and,

"While they have no knowledge thereof. They follow but a conjecture and verily conjecture avails nothing against Truth." [5]

So here we can see Allah warning us over and over again not to speak of the religion or about Him without knowledge. We must understand that there was only one human being who ever lived and had the compete understanding of the Quran. That was Abul Qaasim Muhammad bin Abdullah (SAW), and he was the last Messenger of Allah. He was sent to us in order to expound and clarify the Quran so the people living in his time could learn it, implement it, and then pass it on to the following generations. We have to understand though, that he did not explain the Quran, word for word. The reason for this is that the Quran was sent down in the language of the Quresh, which were the first tribe to witness the early revelations. Secondly, because they witnessed the events pertaining to the revelations they did not need clarification for why and when a certain surah was revealed. This does not mean that the Prophet (SAW) did not explain any of the Quran because he did, there were many surahs and ayat that confused certain sahabah and therefore they had to be explained to them. Also different sahabah moved in from different parts of the world and they might not have witnessed the early revelations and therefore needed to know the history. It should be understood also, that the Prophet (SAW) did not really need to "explain" every aspect of the Quran, because the sahabah used to watch him really closely in everything he did. So like the hadeeth of Ayesha (ra) states that, "He (SAW) was a living Quran". This means that his way of teaching the others was to act and live according to the Quran and then others would watch him and do the same.

This leads to the discussion of when tafseers were actually needed. After the death of the Prophet (SAW) when the sahabah moved around the world to teach Muslims about their religion, they started to do tafseer of the Quran. This was an attempt to make the people understand their religion better. The sahabah though, did not have many differences in the interpretations of the meanings in the Quran. Surely they had different methods of performing tafseer, some chose certain examples over others, others had a different set of words to describe something, but these things never contradicted the real direct meaning of an ayat or surah. The sahabah had a certain methodology that they followed and this was the same methodology they passed on to the next generation to come. This methodology was of three "major" categories:

  • Firstly, they would try and understand the Quran in light of other verses of the Quran

  • Secondly, they would understand the Quran in light of the Prophetic traditions that they had preserved with them.

  • Thirdly, they would understand the Quran in light of the Arabic language.

There were some other ways they included in their tafseers, such as certain stories from the People of the Book which were backed up in the Quran and Sunnah, or they would sometimes use personal ijtehad (this was very limited) little to none. They feared saying anything about the Quran with opinion because they knew what a big sin it would be upon them. As Abu Bakr (ra) used to say, when asked a question about a verse from the Quran, "What earth would carry me and what sky would shade me if I should speak about the Quran with my opinion or by something I do not know". And Umar (ra) was known to say, "Beware of using your opinions in religious matters". [6]

As for the three main sources of tafseer, they all agreed upon and they all used this methodology to make sure they stuck tot he truth. For us on the other hand, we must add something to this methodology. Since the sahabah are no longer living here to teach us, we have to use their teachings in our tafseers too. We know that there are not people more knowledgeable like the sahabah such as Ibn Abbas, Ibn Mas’ud, Ali ibn Abu Talib, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ubay ibn Kaab and many more. There are many authentic hadeeth, where the Prophet (SAW) explained the knowledge and characters of these men and he ordered us to follow them after him. So we have to use the Quran, the Sunnah, the explanations of the Sahabah and their students, and then we can use the Arabic language, insha’allah. This is the same methodology every writer of tafseer is supposed to be using but as we look at some major translations of the Quran, we will come to know how many of them are lacking in this area.

Comparison of English Translations/Tafseer

One of the major signs of a translation or tafseer that has not followed the methodology of the sahabah is that it will have mistakes in the area of Aqeedah. This is what the focus of this comparison will be on. Major mistakes in the area of Allah’s Attributes or His Being. As the followers of the Prophet (SAW), as the Ahlus-Sunnah we believe what he has told us about Allah and what his companions have explained to us on this issue. That is, that when it comes to the Quran we are supposed to understand the literal text of the meanings, UNLESS it has to do with Allah’s attributes. What is meant by Allah’s attributes is His hands, face, shin, His Arsh, His Kursi, His Istawa (ascension) etc. Whenever the Quran says anything about these attributes we take their apparent meaning and become silent about them. We do not make ta’weel and expound and clarify these things. The reason is that how can we expound and clarify something which we never seen and have no knowledge about? Therefore if we see that it says Allah has hands, we say "Allah has hands", the same goes for other attributes. We do not say, "hands like ours", because the Quran tells us "There is nothing like unto Him". In the same way, we do not negate these attributes and say, "there is no such thing". This is usually the way of the Mu’tazillites and also some A’sharites. This is not the way of the Ahlus-Sunnah.

As we take a closer look at the following comparison of tafseers and translations, the reader may judge for themselves what is correct and what is incorrect.

Let us begin with the most popular of English tafseers in describing the few ayat from Surah al-Baqarah, known as Ayat ul-Kursi. The ayat are as follows,

"Allah! None has the right to be worshipped but He, the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists. Neither slumber nor sleep overtake Him…….until it ends with…. His "kursi" extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them. And He is the Most High, the Most Gracious" [7]

As we will see, the main focus here will be on how the word "kursi" has been described in the following translations.

The Holy Quran by: Syed Abu Ala Maududi

(summarized version of Tafheem al-Quran).

He interprets the end of ayat-al-kursi in the following way;

"His Kingdom extends over the Heavens and the earth."

Explanation: The word used in the text is kursi (chair), which is generally used as a symbol for Kingdom and Authority metaphorically.

Now as we discussed earlier, if Allah called it "kursi" then we cannot make it a metaphor. What evidence does one have to make this statement? Lets move on to the next popular translation.

The Holy Quran: translation and commentary by: Abdullah Yusuf Ali

"His Throne doth extend over the Heavens and the Earth"

Explanation: Throne means seat, power, knowledge and a symbol of authority.

One should keep in mind that Throne is the definition of Arsh not Kursi.

The Holy Quran by Muhammed Sarwar

"The heavens and the Earth are under His Dominion"

Explanation: none given

Al-Quran al-Karim: The Quran Translations by M.H.Shakir

"His Knowledge extends over the Heavens and the Earth"

Explanation: none given

Keep in mind, here, the word kursi has been defined as the word Ilm should be defined. Knowledge means Ilm.

Now lets look at some decent translations of this ayah.

The Quran: First American Version by T.B. Irving

"His seat extends far over the Heavens and the earth"

Explanation: Kursi means chair or seat.

The Holy Quran: English Translation and Editing by Saheeh International

"His Kursi extends over the Heavens and the Earth"

Explanation: Kursi- chair or footstool. It is not to be confused as Al-Arsh (The Throne) which is infinitely higher and greater than Al-Kursi.

Interpretations of the Meanings of The Noble Quran: by Muhammed Muhsin Khan and Muhammed Taqi-u-deen al-Hilaali

A Summarized version of at-Tabari, al-Qurtubi and Ibn Katheer. Commentary from Saheeh al-Bukhari.

"His Kursi extends over the Heaven and Earth"

Explanation: Kursi: literally a footstool or chair, and sometimes wrongly translated as throne. The Kursi mentioned here in this verse should be distinguished from the Arsh mentioned elsewhere in the Quran. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "The Kursi compared to the Arsh is nothing but like a ring thrown out upon open space of the desert." If the Kursi extends over the entire universe, then how much greater is the Arsh. Indeed Allah the Creator of both the Kursi and the Arsh, is Most Great [Fatawa Ibn Taymiyah, Vol.5, pg 54-55.] Ibn Taymiyah said:

a) To believe in the Kursi

b) To believe in the Arsh (Throne). It is narrated by Muhammed ibn Abdullah and by other religious scholars that the Kursi is in front of the Arsh and it is at the level of the feet.

After reading the various interpretations of the word Kursi in Surah al-Baqarah it has become quiet apparent as to what is the right translation. This is not the only mistake these people have made. In other parts of the Quran they have misinterpreted the word Arsh itself and also have misinterpreted Allah’s ascending (Istawaa). This time we will start with the correct interpretation from the Noble Quran and Saheeh International, then work are way up to the others. Lets look at two verses one describing Arsh, the other describing Istawa.

Noble Quran by Muhammed Muhsin Khan and Taqi-u-Deen al-Hilaali

"And His Throne (Arsh) was on the water…" [8] (describing Arsh)

Explanation: Hadeeth from Saheeh al-Bukhari " Do you see what He has spent since He created the Heavens and the Earth? Yet all that has not decreased what is in His Right Hand. His Throne is over the water and in His other Hand is the bounty or power to bring about death, and He raises some people and brings others down." (Vol, 9. #515)

"Then He rose over (Istawa) the Throne (really in a matter befitting His Majesty)" [9] (describing the transcendence)

Saheeh International

"His Throne had been upon water"

"He established Himself above the Throne"

The Quran: T.B. Irving

"His Throne rises over water"

"Then He mounted on the Throne"

Muhammed Sarwar:

"His Dominion is over the Water"

"He established His Dominion over the Throne"

M.H.Shakir

"And His Dominion extends on the water"

"He mounted on the Throne (of authority)"

Yusuf Ali:

"And His Throne was over the waters"

Explanation: It is scientifically correct to say that all life was evolved out of water, and thus the statement also occurs in the Quran. The Throne of God’s authority is metaphorically expressed as over the waters i.e.. As regulating life

Some such mystic meaning, I think also attaches to Gen i, 2.

"And He is firmly established on the Throne (of authority)"

Explanation: God’s attributes may be summed up with reference to Knowledge, Power and Mercy.

Maulana Maududi

"Owner of the Mighty Throne"

"He sat upon the Throne"

Explanation: (In my own summarized words)

The aspect of "He sat upon the Throne" is very difficult from human comprehension. It might be that Allah has created from Himself a limitless Kingdom, which is called Al-Arsh, or in the Arabic language it might be a figurative speech implying power or kingdom.

In conclusion of this essay it is obvious that even though these people at times will reject the whole aspect of Arsh, at other times they will have no other way of explaining it except as Arsh. In this they contradict themselves. They cannot define Arsh as Dominion because the Arabic word of Dominion is Mulk. They cannot describe Arsh as being Knowledge because the Arabic word for that is Ilm. So they should be left with nothing accept the explanation that was given to us by the scholars of the early generations, who affirmed All of Allah’s sifaat. Similar mistakes will be found in translations like Pickthall and others. In Pickthall in fact, he along with many others have translated the word Burooj, as Zodiacal signs. This is of course forbidden in Islam, so why would Allah swear by zodiacal signs? It all returns back to the root of the problem. Not relying on authentic sources in matters as important as this and delving into errors that might fall into Shirk. Allah’s Istawa has been explained in many places in the Quran and it is even used when Allah speaks about raising E’sa (as) back to the heavens. This is also a refutation to those who believe in the aspect of Allah being "everywhere". They are in total contradiction to the Quran and the Sunnah. It has been a sincere effort to try and explain to the reader and the seekers of knowledge to be very careful when taking material on the deen from just anyone. We must go back to the works of the earliest Muslims who followed the Ahlus-Sunnah and we must come down the line up until the scholars of today who are from Ahlus-Sunnah and go by the same teachings and beliefs. May Allah save us Allah from deviating from the right path, may He keep us on Siraatul-Mustaqeem, may He forgive those who fallen into grave error and may He grant us all the highest rank in Jannah in accompanying our beloved Prophet Muhammed (SAW).

May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Muhammed, his family, his companions and all his followers until the Last Day.


 

References

  • Abdullah Yusuf Ali. The Holy Quran, translation and commentary. Brentwood, Maryland: Amana Corp., 1983.

  • Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips. Usool at-Tafseer. Sharjah, U.A.E.: Dar al-Fatah Co., 1997.

  • Ahmed Von Denffer. Ulum al-Quran. Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation., 1994.

  • Habib Badr. Tafseer ibn Katheer (summarized in english). Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Maktabah Dar-us-Salam., 1997.

  • Khurram Murad. The Way To the Quran. Birmingham, UK: Islamic Propagation Centre Internationa., 1985

  • M.H. Shakir. The Quran Translation, Al-Quran al-Kareem. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsal Quran, Inc., 1993

  • Muhammad Muhsin Khan. The translation of the meanings of Saheeh al-Bukhari. Lahore, Pakistan: Kazi Publications., 1986.

  • Muhammad Muhsin Khan and Taqi-ud-Deen al-Hilaali. The translations of the Meanings of the Noble Quran. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Maktabah Dar-us-Salam., 1993.

  • Muhammed Sarwar. The Noble Quran. Elmhurst, NY: Islamic Seminary., (no date)

  • Safi ur-Rehman al-Mubarakfuri and Salaahudeen Yusuf. Ahsan al-Bayan. Lahore, Pakistan: Maktabah Dar-us-Salam., 1990.

  • T.B. Irving: The Quran: first American version. Brattltboro, Vermont: Amana books.,1985.

  • The Quran: In English. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Abul Qaasim Publishing House.,1997

Articles/Notes:

  • Muhammed ibn Abdul Wahhab. Excellent Qualities of the Quran.

  • Un-Authored. Who Wrote the Holy Quran.

Footnotes:

1 Surah al-Furqan 33

2 Al-Itqaan fee Ulum al-Quran, (2/174).

3 Surah al-Anam 93

4 Surah al-Hajj 3-4

5 Surah al-Najm 28

6 Many such statement in Jami Bayan al-Ilm wa Fadhlihi, Abu Amr ibn Abdul Barr.

7 Surah al-Baqarah 255

8 Surah at-Tauba 129

9 Surah al-Araf 4