Gems from Fatḥ al Bāri
(With slight editing).
Muʿāwiyah (ra) narrated: I heard Allāh’s Messenger (Sallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) saying, “If Allāh wishes good for a person, He makes him comprehend the religion. I am just a distributor, but the grant is from Allāh. (And remember) that this nation will keep on following Allāh’s teachings strictly and they will not be harmed by any one going on a different path till Allāh’s order is established.” (Saḥīḥ al Bukhāri).
This ḥadīth revolves around three issues:
- The virtue of learning and understanding (tafaqquh)
- That the true giver of things is Allāh (swt).
- A part of the ummah will always remain upon the truth.
- The first part of the ḥadīth is suited to be mentioned in chapters related to knowledge whereas the second is more suited to chapters related to the distribution of charity (Imam Muslim mentioned the ḥadīth in the book of zakāh.) and the third part of the ḥadīth is more suited to be mentioned in the chapter of the signs of the Hour.
- However, all three matters are really related to knowledge:
- The first part is clearly related to knowledge.
- The second part alludes to that knowledge is not simple ‘gained’ but a person must also receive divine support from Allāh to attain it.
- The third part alludes to the fact that there will always be a group of people upon this path of knowledge.
- It can also be derived from the ḥadīth that a time will never pass except that there will be a mujtahid existent in the ummah. This was the apparent view of Imam al Bukhāri.
- Imam an-Nawawi said: “It is possible that this band of people (ṭāʾifah) could consist of different groups of believers who establish the command of Allāh whether they be mujāhidīn, jurists, scholars of ḥadīth, ascetics, those who enjoin the good and forbid the evil etc. It is not necessary that they are all gathered together in one place, rather it is possible for them to be dispersed across the land.”
- The term fiqh has slightly different meanings depending on they way it is pronounced:
- faqUha: is used when fiqh becomes second nature to someone.
- faqAha: is used when someone precedes others in understanding matters.
- faqIha: is used to mean to understand.
- All three meanings are applicable here.
- The word used for good: ‘khayran’ has been mentioned in the indefinite form to make it inclusive of all forms of good whether little or many. Mentioning it in the indefinite also venerates the status of this ‘good’.
- The implied understanding (mafhūm) of the ḥadīth shows that the one who does not learn the fiqh of the religion i.e. the fundamentals and branches of the religion, has been denied good.
- The one who does not know the affairs of his religion, nor is a faqīh or a student of fiqh can be described as being someone who good was not intended for.
- The ḥadīth also shows how scholars have a greater status over the rest of mankind and that fiqh of the religion is more virtuous over all other sciences.
7. What should the layman do when he cannot find a mujtahid?
The scholars have differed about what the layman should do if he cannot find a mujtahid to ask. Some scholars are of the view that he should implement the ruling that was known in previous scriptures. Others believe this matter should be treated in accordance to what someone should do when the mujtahid cannot find an answer to the apparent conflict of evidences, whilst others are of the view that he should fear Allāh (swt) as much as he possibly can.
However, in reality this matter is extremely rare in this era due to the availability of technology and means of communication. So if a person is in the USA or the UK he can easily contact a scholar from the KSA for example. So praise be to Allāh (swt) who made such means available to us to help us worship Him.
8. Making Taqlīd (blind-following) to someone who is known to be negligent (Mutasāhil)
If a layman knows that a particular mujtahid is negligent in deriving rulings it becomes prohibited for him to act upon his verdicts. This is because the layman acts in accordance to the statement of a mujtahid due to his belief that the mujtahid’s statement is likely to be in accordance with the actual ruling of the sharīʿah. Therefore, if a person is known for being negligent in passing fatāwa then the layman should assume that the fatwa is likely not be in accordance with the ruling of the sharīʿah. Thus the very ʿillah (legal reasoning) that made acting in accordance with his verdict being obligatory becomes void.
 Sharh al Kawkab al Munīr 4/553, al Musawwadah p.550 etc.
 The Mutasāhil is someone who passes verdicts without researching adequately into the matter.
 Sharh al Kawkab al Munīr 4/588, al Majmūʿ 1/81 etc.
6.Who should the layman ask when there are a number of mujtahidūn?
The majority of the scholars viewed the permissibility of a layman to ask any mujtahid when there are a number of them, and to act upon his verdict whether he be the more distinguished and virtuous amongst them or not. They cited as proof for that a number of different evidences such as:
“And ask the people of remembrance if you do not know.” (an-naḥl: 43).
The mujtahid who is less distinguished and learned (mafḍūl) is considered to be from the people of remembrance and so it is permissible to ask him.
Also, according to the consensus (ijmāʿ) of the salaf, the mafḍūl can pass verdicts whilst the more distinguished and learned scholar (fāḍil) is existent. This reality became a well-known matter and continued to exist without any form of condemnation and thus it became a consensus i.e. to ask the mafḍūl for fatwa whilst it was possible to ask the fāḍil.
The scholars also cited as proof that at times the layman cannot outweigh opinions (tarjīḥ) due to his inadequacy. This is because tarjīḥ between individual scholars requires ijtihād and knowledge.
However, the last point can be objected to since the ability to make tarjīḥ between scholars can be possible for the layman if he carefully listened to their arguments and constantly referred back to the scholars (with rebuttals etc), or due to the multiplicity of scholars that adopt a particular view or by other scholars giving preference to that view.
 See: Sharḥ al Kawkab al Munīr: (4/571), al Majmūʿ 1/94, al Musawwadah p.462, al Mustaṣfā 2/390 etc.
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(This part of an ongoing translation of Sheikh Shithrī’s treatise pertaining laws and principles for the non-Mujtahid).
If a layman asks a group of scholars a question and their answers differ from one another, it becomes incumbent upon his to give preference to one of the opinions based upon the righteousness and scrupulousness of the scholar. This is because there is no other distinguishing way to choose between the variant opinions and also because it is more likely that the more righteous and scrupulous scholar is, the more likely he will be correct. Therefore it is not permissible for him to go against what he thinks is most likely to be correct.
Also, one of the two opinions is bound to be incorrect since the truth will always lie in only one of the opinions. Therefore, when there is a conflict of views the layman must adopt an opinion that is more likely to be correct in accordance to the righteousness and scrupulousness of the scholar just as the mujtahid must choose the strongest of two evidences.
The layman is required to follow the law of Allāh (swt) and it is not possible for him to know what the law of Allāh (swt) is unless he knows the statement of the scholars. Therefore, if he comes across a variety of different opinions, he must act in accordance to what he thinks is the law of Allāh (swt), whether that be due to the great number of scholars that adopt a particular opinion or due to the virtue and righteousness of them or due to the evidence that is available to him.
 Sharḥ al Kawkab al Munīr 4/573, al Majmū’ 1/97, al Mustaṣfā 2/391, al Muwāfaqāṭ 4/132.
I have had countless requests from people to know what book of tafsīr I refer to when delivering the weekly tafsīr class in London. The following is a list of the books I mainly refer to as well as a brief discussion of some of the books.
Books of Tafsīr referred to:
- Aṭ-Ṭabari. (26 vols.)
- Ibn Kathīr. (The print I refer to is 15 vols due to its extensive checking, otherwise it is usually shorter)
- al Qurṭubi. (24 vols.)
- Al Baghawi. (8 vols.)
- At-Taḥrīr wat-Tanwīr – Ibn ‘Āshūr. (30 vols.)
- Al Muḥarrar al Wajīz – Ibn ʿAṭiyyah. (6 vols.)
- Aḍwā’ al Bayān – Shinqīṭi. (10 vols.)
- Aḥkām al Qur’ān – Ibn al ‘Arabi. (4 vols.)
- Zād al Masīr – Ibn al Jawzi. (4 vols.)
- Fatḥ al Qadīr – ash-Shawkāni. (4 vols.)
- Mafātīḥ al Ghayb – ar-Rāzi. (32 vols.)
- Naẓm ad-Durar – al Biqāʿi. (22 vols.)
- Maḥāsin at-Taʾwīl – Jamāl ad-Dīn al Qāsimi. (9 vols.)
- Al Baḥr al Muḥīṭ – Abū Ḥayyān. (8 vols.)
- Badāʾiʿ al Fawāʾid – Ibn al Qayyim. (4 vols.)
- Tafsīr as-Saʿadi. (1 vol.)
- Aysar at-Tafāsīr – Abū Bakr al Jazāʾiri. (2 vols.)
- ʾIʿrāb al Qur’ān wa Bayānuhu – Muḥammad ad-Darweish. (9 vols.)
- At-Tafsīr al Mawḍūʿi. (Groups of scholars) (10 vols.)
- Al Burhān fī tartīb suwar al Qur’ān. – al-Gharnāṭi. (1 vol.)
- Muʿjam Mufradāt alfāẓ al Qurʾān. – ar-Rāghib al Aṣfahāni. (1 vol).
- al Iklīl fi Istinbāṭ a-Tanzīl – as-Suyūṭi. (1 vol.)
- Tafsīr Juzʾ ʿamma – Musāʿid aṭ-Tayyār. (1 vol.)
This list covers various different types of tafāsīr such as the traditional maʾthūr method of transmitting statements from the Prophet (saw) and his companions and tābiʿīn (such as Ṭabari, Ibn Kathīr, Zād al Masīr, al Muḥarrar al Wajīz etc).
There are also those that are based on raʾi (opinion) and thus tend to delve into dangerous areas such as philosophy and exaggerations in trying to read between the verses that sometimes led to some of the mufassirūn to abandon narrations. A typical example of such types of tafsīr is the Rāzi’s tafsīr. It was even said about it: “It contains everything but tafsīr”! Nonetheless, some of his reflections are very interesting and beneficial.
Some of the books above focus on fiqhi rulings such as Ibn al ʿArabi’s and Qurtubi’s tafsīr with the latter being much more comprehensive, including a more detailed linguistic discussion of the verses as well as mentioning āthār.
A few also focus heavily on the concept of Naẓm/Munāsabah (coherence of verses/chapters and the relationship they have with one another) such as Naẓm ad-Durar, Mafātīh al Ghayb, at-Tafsīr al Mawḍūʾi and al Burhān. These works are extremely beneficial for those who wish to ponder over the meanings of the verses albeit sometimes the authors go to extremes to try and relate one verse to another and one chapter to another. Many people today are very keen on reading and hearing tafsīr following this method since certain types of coherence in the literature we read here in the west is really considered to be the backbone for what it is considered to be good literature. We can say a lot more about this point but perhaps we will leave that for later inshā’allāh.
Shaqīṭi’s work is a gem and focuses on interpreting the Qur’ān by the Qur’ān itself (i.e. by discussing over verses that cover similar meanings to the verse at hand.) In addition to that he discusses the verses of aḥkām very well as well as clarifying many of the disputed issues of tafsīr in a very convincing manner. It is also free from deviations in ʿaqīdah.
Maḥāsin at-Taʾwīl by al Qāsimi is another gem. He has the ability to extract gems of benefits from obscure and rare works and authors.
Sheikh Musā’id’s tafsīr is beneficial too. He is a contemporary expert in the sciences of the Qur’ān and deals with variant opinions very well.
You can follow my tafsīr classes here on youtube.
Ibn al Qayyim said in al Fawā’id:
There are ten matters that are not benefitted from:
- Knowledge that is not acted upon.
- Actions that lack sincerity and any guidance from the Prophet (saw).
- Wealth that has no charity given from it, so as a result, its owner does not benefit from it in the dunyā or the hereafter.
- An empty heart that is devoid of the love of Allāh (swt), as well as a desire to meet Him and finding intimacy with Him.
- A body that is inactive in worshipping and serving Him.
- Love (of Allāh) that is not governed by the pleasure of the Beloved and the fulfillment of His commandments.
- Moments of inactivity that are not used to make up for deficiencies or seizing the opportunity to do righteous deeds.
- Thinking of non-beneficial matters.
- Serving those that do not bring you closer to Allāh or benefit you in your dunyā.
- Fearing and having hope in those whose forelocks are in the hands of Allāh (swt), thus being a captive in His grasp not being able to possess any (control of) benefit, evil, death, life or resurrection.
The greatest of these losses are two, and they are considered to be the source of all losses:
- The loss of the heart.
- The loss of time.
The loss of the heart occurs when one gives preference to the dunyā over the afterlife and the loss of time occurs as a result of having false aspirations for living a long life. Therefore, all forms of evil result from following one’s desires and false aspirations whereas true success lies in following guidance and preparing to meet Allāh (swt).
How strange it is though, that when a person is faced with a (worldly) need, he exerts all of his efforts petitioning to Allāh (swt) to see to his need. However, he does not implore his Lord to ask Him to give life to his heart from the death of ignorance, shunning as well as from the despair of desires and doubts.
When the heart dies though, it will not recognise when it sins.