Why it is an absolute must for Muslims to learn tafsiir of the Quran, along with the Arabic language…
Please have a read through of this verse (210) from Surah Al-Baqarah:
هَلْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَّا أَن يَأْتِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ فِي ظُلَلٍ مِّنَ الْغَمَامِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ وَقُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ ۚ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ تُرْجَعُ الْأُمُورُ
Quoted here are the most popular so called “translations” floating around (underlining mine):-
1 – Sahih International translation says:
Do they await but that Allah should come to them in covers of clouds and the angels [as well] and the matter is [then] decided? And to Allah [all] matters are returned.
2 – Muhsin Khan translation says:
Do they then wait for anything other than that Allah should come to them in the shadows of the clouds and the angels? (Then) the case would be already judged. And to Allah return all matters (for decision).
3 – Pickthall translation says:
Wait they for naught else than that Allah should come unto them in the shadows of the clouds with the angels? Then the case would be already judged. All cases go back to Allah (for judgment).
4 – Yusuf Ali translation says:
Will they wait until Allah comes to them in canopies of clouds, with angels (in His train) and the question is (thus) settled? but to Allah do all questions go back (for decision).
5 – Shakir translation says:
They do not wait aught but that Allah should come to them in the shadows of the clouds along with the angels, and the matter has (already) been decided; and (all) matters are returned to Allah.
6 – Dr. Ghali translation says:
Do they look for (nothing) except that Allah will come up to them in the overshadowings of mist, and the Angels? And the Command is accomplished and to Allah (all) the Commands are returned.
Don’t be angry at me, and I am in no way trying to sound smart but every single one of them is terribly wrong to say the least. It is nothing but an ibntaymiyyite termite’s delight! It is an EXTREME disservice to the Quran. It is an anthropomorphist mujassim’s fantasy! It is simply abhorrent. Period.
Every single one of those translations have done ZERO justice to the verse in their mad dash to literally flip words from one language to another, so much that the message of the verse is completely lost upon a reader. That is notwithstanding the senseless additions like “In His train”.
People seem to forget that translations are about transforming a MESSAGE, a CONCEPT, from one language to another. At times, literal translations indeed are the way to go, and in fact anything else would be a great injustice. At other times however, where allegorical constructs are used, it is incumbent that a translator give the Arabic text its due.
How do we know what to do and where? Simple. The knowledge of the Quran has come down from the Prophet ﷺ to the sahaba to the tabi’een, to their students, and so on. We are safe as long as we are in the hands of the acknowledged classical masters of the Islamic sciences.
People should note an additional point here. The Quran is in Arabic. This however, does NOT mean that an Arab can directly understand the meaning of every single verse just as it is presented in the matn (the text) of the Quran. Indeed, Arabs themselves need the verses explained and elucidated to them. And here I am not talking about detailed discourses pertaining to the verse, but just about the BASIC MEANING OF THE CORE TEXT OF A GIVEN VERSE.
At times, taking the literal meaning of a verse is quite disastrous, even for Arabs themselves, as is the case with the wahabis for instance. The meanings of certain allegorical verses can’t be taken on their apparent literal constructs, as has been taught by the classical masters and as any person with an iota of common sense knows that Allah does not resemble His creation. It is twice as bad to translate them into another language, just as literally, since the poor reader of the other language may not even be able to doubt that the verse is allegorical as he doesn’t even have a clue about the language of the source text.
Of course, for Arabs, an explanation and elucidation of the matn can’t be called a “translation”, whereas in the case of non-Arabic speakers it can be included within the “translation” into another language. The bottom line is that even to understand the core text of the verses, sometimes a literal flipping of words is just not enough, rather it is severely disastrous for Muslims. This applies to the speakers of any language.
EVEN IF, the verbal translation of the matn (the core text) of the verses is accurate, one STILL needs to get further information regarding the verses on a whole host of issues, and this is what the sciences of the Quran are all about.
It would be idiotic of me to suggest that I aim to capture even a flavor of the scope and nuances of these Quranic sciences in this post, but as a meager servant at the feet of the Ahlus Sunnah scholars, I shall attempt to only highlight some of the items that will safeguard innocent Sunnis from getting conned by shayateen who claim to be ‘scholars of Islam’, followers of the ‘salaf’, and ‘sufis’.
Scholars of the sciences of the Quran are unanimous in stating that the BEST tafsiir of the Quran is by the Quran itself, that is, from its other verses explaining the same topic. Then from the Prophetic sayings, sayings of sahaba and so on.
Coming back to the topic of just the verbal translation of the meanings of the core texts of the verses, two of the classical clear and concise explanations explaining the verses and elucidating on them are the Tafsiir Jalalayn and Tafsiir Nasafi.
They are in Arabic. This should be a reminder to those literalists and anthropomorphists (INCLUDING the Arab ones) who think that the Quran can be understood by whatever meaning summarily comes to one’s fancy. Indeed, the Arabs themselves sought to further their knowledge of the Quran and sought it from the classical masters who sought it from the sahaba who sought it from the Messenger of Allah himself.
Firstly, let us see the explanation of the verse in these two tafaasiir and then correct the translation of meaning of the verse, before we get on with the rest of the post.
Here is the explanation of the verse as stated in Tafsiir Jalalayn:
< هل > ما < ينظرون > ينتظر التاركون الدخول فيه < إلا أن يأتيهم الله > اي أمره كقوله < أو يأتي أمر ربك > اي عذابه < في ظلل > جمع ظلة < من الغمام > السحاب < والملائكة وقضي الأمر> تم أمر هلاكهم < وإلى الله ترجع الأمور> بالبناء للمفعول والفاعل في الآخرة فيجازي كلا بعمله
< هل > What < ينظرون > do those who rejected entering into it [Islam] wait for? < إلا أن يأتيهم الله > that is, His decree, just as implied in His saying < أو يأتي أمر ربك > (or there comes the decree of your Lord; 16:33) that is, His ‘adhab/punishment < في ظلل > plural of zdhullah < من الغمام > clouds overcast <والملائكة وقضي الأمر > to execute the decree of destroying them [the rejectors] <وإلى الله ترجع الأمور > in the hereafter, and He shall recompense each [slave] for his deeds, [recited with the Arabic grammar] constructs employing the maf’ool and the faa’il (turja’ul umuur and tarji’ul umuur)
It states in Tafsiir An-Nasafi:
< هَلْ يَنظُرُونَ > [الأنعام : 158] ما ينتظرون < إِلا أَن يَأْتِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ > [البقرة : 210] أي أمر الله وبأسه كقوله : < أَوْ يَأْتِىَ أَمْرُ رَبِّكَ > [النحل : 33] < فَجَآءَهَا بَأْسُنَا > [الأعراف : 4] أو المأتي به محذوف بمعنى أن يأتيهم الله ببأسه للدلالة عليه بقوله : فاعلموا أن الله عزيز < فِي ظُلَلٍ > [البقرة : 210] جمع ظلة وهي ما أظلك < مِّنَ الْغَمَامِ > [البقرة : 210] السحاب. وهو للتهويل إذ الغمام مظنة الرحمة أنزل منه العذاب كان الأمر أفظع وأهول < وَالْمَلَـائكَةِ > أي وتأتي الملائكة الذين وكلوا بتعذيبهم أو المراد حضورهم يوم القيامة < وَقُضِىَ الامْرُ > [هود : 44] أي وتم أمر إهلاكهم وفرغ منه < وَإِلَى اللَّهِ تُرْجَعُ الامُورُ > [البقرة : 210] أي أنه ملك العباد بعض الأمور فترجع إليه الأمور يوم النشور.
< هَلْ يَنظُرُونَ > (6:158) What are they waiting for < إِلا أَن يَأْتِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ > (2:210) that is Allah’s decree and His punishment, as He said < أَوْ يَأْتِىَ أَمْرُ رَبِّكَ > (or there comes the decree of your Lord; 16:33) < فَجَآءَهَا بَأْسُنَا > (then our torment came unto them; 7:4) or what is approaching with it (His Decree) is encompassed in the meaning that Allah is sending His punishment to them as His sign, with His saying <Know that Allah is The Almighty (Al-‘Azeez)> < فِي ظُلَلٍ > (2:210) It is the plural of zdhullah and [it refers to] that which will overshadow you < مِّنَ الْغَمَامِ > (2:210) the low-lying clouds/mist. And that is for overwhelming [them with fear] as the clouds are a source of mercy and [instead] the descent of torment from them makes the matter extremely frightful and horrid. < وَالْمَلَـائكَةِ > That is, the arrival of the angels commissioned with administering their torment, or the implication could [also] be their presence on the Day of Judgment. < وَقُضِىَ الامْرُ > (11:44) That is, the execution of the command of destroying them [i.e., punishing them severely] and fulfillment of it < وَإِلَى اللَّهِ تُرْجَعُ الامُورُ > (2:210) that is, He is The Owner of the slaves and their matters and the matters shall return to him [for judgment] on the Day of Reckoning.
Please note: 1 – In the English translations of the passages of the tafaasiir, I have left the Arabic words from the verse <between the angle brackets> intact, as our job at that stage is to get down to the ACTUAL meaning of the verse. So it would be redundant to translate the words before actually understanding the meaning of the verse!
2 – Please bear with the bad editing in the placement of the various brackets, as the editor doesn’t take too well to Arabic + English mixed formatting.
So then, seeing the above explanations, it is safe to say that the verbal translation of meaning of the matn of the verse is:
هَلْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَّا أَن يَأْتِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ فِي ظُلَلٍ مِّنَ الْغَمَامِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ وَقُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ ۚ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ تُرْجَعُ الْأُمُورُ
What are they waiting for except that Allah’s torment comes in clouds overcast and angels descend and the decree is executed, and to Allah return all matters. [Translation of meaning, Holy Quran 2:210]
Now how hard was that for the reader to grasp? Did it take away from the meaning and message of the verse? Is it a fanciful interpretation using vain, narcissistic & superfluous literary constructs and expressions? No. Is it a literal interpretation? As much as required, yes. The rule is that we try to take the verses on the apparent meaning as much as we can. However, if a verse is allegorical, and it can be proven so, using other verses of the Quran (notwithstanding the detailed explanations given by the sahaba and the scholars of tafsiir), then we give it a meaning that is as holistic as possible considering all the verses of the Quran. This is why scholars say that the best tafsiir of the Quran is by the Quran itself!
It might have been a slightly tedious job for someone venturing out to translate the Quran to look at abridged explanations for every single verse, but in no way does a translation take away from the message and meaning of the verse, if one keeps in mind the explanations given by the classical masters. If one does not want to do the hard yards to deliver the trust of knowledge, he should NOT venture out to write a translation and mislead others and incur multiple sins. What is Islamic knowledge based on after all? The whims and fancies of people, OR the knowledge passed down by our master Rasulullah ﷺ and his inheritors, the sahaba and the scholars?
Very sadly, almost all if not all, of the popular translations in English and other western languages do a great disservice to the translation of meaning of the Quran. In non-Arab Muslim nations however, some translations (not all), those by scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah stay on track in line with the explanations given by the classical masters.
The presented verse is BUT ONE of the examples of the 100’s of errors, both subtle and unsubtle, that exist in the various popular “translations” of the Quran, that distort the messages of various different verses. Of course, the example presented has been one of a gross mistranslation, an abhorrent mistranslation that couldn’t possibly have been missed by even a novice Sunni of sound ‘aqidah, let alone a scholar of Islam and/or the Arabic language! It is one that only the worst and most severely gross anthropomorphist won’t have a problem with.
This example was presented so that the reader can see for himself/herself the great disservice that is being rendered to deen, even in something as fundamental as knowledge of the Quran, and even in such a simple case such as the presented verse, where it is simply not possible to miss noticing such a grave error! What then can we say about the so many subtle errors that lie dormant in the so many popular “translations” of the Quran rendered by popular “star scholars”?!
My apologies for a bit longwinded post. With the point being made, I would just like to mention the people who employ such erroneous translations, knowingly or unknowingly:
1 – Anthropomorphist kharijis – Of course they have their many agendas to push using such ”translations” namely anthropomorphism, anathematizing Muslims, pronouncing bid’ah and shirk on perfectly sound Islamic actions, and general fitnah-mongering.
2 – The rafidzis and the ghullat – Once again, these enemies of the sahaba and the Ahlus Sunnah, have their own agendas to push.
3 – The batinis, mu’tazila and zindiiq ‘sufis’ – who are much ahead of the rafidzis and the khawarij, and these people are the greatest enemies of Islam and the servants of the kuffar. Click Here to see one such example of such a translation employed by a batini kafir. And then Click Here to see the meaning of the verse as explained by classical masters.
So now we know why it is ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE for Muslims to know the tafsiir of the Quran. Contrary to the opinions of the fools who think that flipping words from a dictionary is all that is needed to “translate” the Holy Quran; and then fools and human shayatiin then engineering and twisting that already abhorrent mis“translation” as “evidence” to push for their twisted agendas – here is what a Sunni should be doing in order to do MINIMAL justice to Quranic sciences, Islamic knowledge, his/her own self and his/her hereafter:
1 – Learn the proper pronunciation of the Arabic letters and proper tajweed. This is an ABSOLUTE MUST for you. It is fardz ‘ayn to recite the Quran properly pronouncing each Arabic letter properly and administering the proper rules of tajweed. These tajweed rules for recitation have come to us over the centuries from the scholars who learnt from the sahaba who learnt reciting the Quran from the Prophet ﷺ himself. This is necessary for you to offer your salah/namaz properly and also gain the thawab and benefits of reciting the Quran, for incorrect pronunciation will not yield the many benefits of recitation. This (proper reading and recognition of letters and sounds) is a must even if one is not in a position to learn Arabic language (morphology, lexicology, syntax, grammar, etc.)
2 – Learn the ‘aqidah of the Ahlus Sunnah, the Ash’aris and Maturidis THOROUGHLY, before you embark on a study of the Quranic sciences. This is based on explicit and clear Quranic verses and sahih ahadiith. The reason I mention this before the steps that follow is because if one is shaky on the ‘aqidah of the Ahlus Sunnah or unaware of it, he will almost certainly not be able to spot the gross errors as highlighted in the case study of verse 2:210 above. A firm grasp of the Sunni ‘aqaid will help one a GREAT deal in keeping their eyes and ears open to such gross disservices to the Quran and Islamic sciences.
3 – Get the translation of meaning of the mutun (core texts of the verses) right – If you are in a position to learn the Arabic language, then do this yourself after learning the Arabic language, otherwise, under the tutelage of a qualified scholar of the Ahlus Sunnah. That itself is a big task in our times. As stated, the so-called “translations” which are out there are for the most part, a gross disservice to the Quran and Islamic sciences. In other words, firstly, at least get the verbal translation of the body of the verse right. As stated, we try our best to stay close to the apparent meanings of the Arabic words, but in some cases, a mere flipping of words is simply disastrous. A look into concise tafaasiir like that of the Imamayn Jalalayn will easily help avoid this problem. Remember, the Quran even needs to be explained properly to native speakers of Arabic.
4 – From the detailed works of tafsiir, get the asbab an-nuzuul (the circumstances of revelation) of the verses. This will help you in other academic pursuits as well as help gain a stronger footing in front of deviants.
5 – THIS IS CRUCIAL – Learn the AHKAM (rulings) pertaining to the verse. Why is this crucial? Because the various people of bid’ah will play with the verses and give any fanciful interpretation to justify their vile behavior. The wahabis are notorious for this. Also the enemies of Islam embedded INSIDE of the Muslim community, masquerading as ‘scholars of Islam’, are either resounding ignoramuses themselves, or are deliberately playing with Allah’s deen. They FOOL and MISGUIDE the innocent Muslim masses by stating the asbab an-nuzuul only and presenting it in such a manner to imply that the HUKM (ruling) in the verse was only meant to that particular circumstance in the Prophet’s times, or twist the ahkam pertaining to the verse if it causes them embarrassment in front of their kafir masters. At times, they will draw false analogies from the circumstances of revelation which are not allowed to be drawn. Why?
6 – Because the ruling from the verse may be mansuukh (abrogated). It is imperative for Muslims to know the ahkam that are mansuukh. The rulings that are mansuukh can NO LONGER be implemented. They are abrogated. Muslims MUST gain knowledge of what is naasikh (abrogating command) and what is mansuukh (abrogated command) and what is mansuukh with conditions. (For example the verses that permit certain actions towards the kuffaar, are only applicable in the case of dhimmis and there are NO dhimmis in our times! The zanaadiq pretending to be ‘scholars of Islam’ will present it as a blanket rule for all kafirs, even non-dhimmi harbiyyeen and will in fact go a step ahead and urge Muslims to polish the boots of the kuffaar with their tongues, just like they do themselves.)
7 – This is an extension of points 5 & 6. Remember that the rules of the Shari’ah apply equally to ALL Muslims. The foolish wahabis, just like the fake sufis, love to play on the asbab an-nuzuul and many times they will imply that the verse only pertained to the specific circumstance at the time of revelation. Knowing the hukm derived from the verse by the sahaba and the mujtahid scholars will PROTECT you from the fitnah of the wahabis and the fake sufis, and their fanciful nafs-pleasing, self-concocted rules. An example: The jahil wahabis say that verse 4:64 only applies to the sahaba, while the mujtahid scholars OF Islam use it as evidence that indeed praying to Allah by the Prophet’s tawassul is a virtuous act. The wahabis are notorious for concocting fanciful interpretations, meanings and deriving fanciful ahkam from verses that have no basis in the teachings of the early mujtahid masters! (And yet, ironically, they call themselves “salafi”) At times they will use verses meant for mushrikiin and apply them on Muslims. At other times, they will make rules out of thin air, saying, “that is only specific to the sahaba” or “that permission is not open to all Muslims” and other such rubbish without realizing that the Shari’ah is one to all Muslims.
The kafir-loving syncretist fake sufis on the other hand, use the exact same tactic of making rules out of thin air, only they do it with abrogated verses that permit forgiveness to the kuffaar. They love to cite abrogations and promote any and every form of appeasement of the kuffaar. In fact, they grossly extrapolate even further and/or twist and manipulate the abrogated rule itself, and somehow bring forward bizarre rulings, which are NOT EVEN THE ABROGATED RULINGS but something taken off from it onto a totally different plane, that help uplift kufr and humiliate Islam! May Allah curse all enemies of Ahlus Sunnah and Islam.
THE BOTTOM LINE – Be switched on & KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE ASBAB AN-NUZUUL AND THE DERIVED AHKAM THAT PERTAIN TO A VERSE. Always seek to investigate THE HUKM coming out of a verse as stated by the CLASSICAL scholars of tafsiir and mujtahid imams of madhhabs.
8 – ALWAYS REMEMBER – NEVER take the word of a contemporary if it opposes the words of classical mujtahid imams. Always double check what the contemporaries are saying, with the words of the classical scholars of tafsiir and the mujtahid imams of madhhabs, considering the woeful times full of fitnah that we live in! Click Here to see an example of how contemporary zindiiq sufis have spread the wrong message regarding the ruling derived from a verse DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSITE to the hukm taken by CLASSICAL scholars!
The above is my meager effort to highlight to an average everyday Sunni regarding the BARE MINIMUM that he needs to know regarding the Quran and interpreting from it in a manner that will protect him from the attacks of the various different enemies of Islam & the Ahlus Sunnah, the people of bid’ah like the shias and the wahabis, and other zanaadiq & munaafiq enemies of Allah and His Messenger like the syncretist sufis! Please do not consider it as a discourse on the academic nuances of the various Quranic sciences.
May Allah grant us knowledge of the Quran and cuase us to serve His deen, His Messenger ﷺ, and His Book; and may He destroy the people of bid’ah, hawaa, zandaqa and nifaaq. Aameen bi hurmati nabiyyihil amiin.
And there is no success except by His granting.