Introduction Part 4: Why give such importance to the Arabic language?
This is Part 4 of the Introduction in the abridged tafsir of Surah Al-Baqarah based on the book ‘tayseer ila usul it-tafsir’ by Shaykh Ata bin Khalil Abu Rishta
Here it is necessary to mention two important matters:
First: Some people say that there is no need for giving this much importance to the Arabic language to understand the Qur’an, as the Qur’an explains itself, or by the narrations of the Prophet (saw) (الأحاديث). In other words, a verse is explained by another verse or hadith. Hence, depending on the Arabic language to this extent is unnecessary.
Then there appeared, as a consequence of that, some books like تفسير القرآن بالقرآن ‘Explaining the Qur’an with the Qur’an’, while they thought that this was correct.
Second: Some other people said that there are no مجاز in the language or in the Qur’an. They also thought that this was correct.
As for the first saying: The one who contemplates on it does not find it sound, for the following reasons:
1. Not all verses are explained by another verse or a hadith, rather very few are explained by other verses or hadith, such as His saying (jalla jallalahu)
“Verily, man was created very impatient; anxious when evil touches him; And stingey when good touches him” [al-ma’arij 19-21].
Here the verse explained the meaning of His saying that it is the one who “anxious when evil touches him; And stingey when good touches him”
Or his saying in surat al-Baqarah, was explained by Rasul Allah (saw) with his hadeeth on the meaning of as-Salah.
2. Those verses that are explained with other verses and hadith are few. The explanation coming in the other verse or hadith is [itself] not understood except with the Arabic language in which the verse was sent down, or in which the hadith was said.
These two matters, that not all verses are explained by other verses and hadith, and that the verse or hadith that is doing the explaining, is itself in need of the Arabic language to realize the correct understanding. These two matters make the saying of those who say that the Qur’an is explained by itself or by hadith, and that there is no need for giving this much importance to the Arabic language to understand the Qur’an correctly; they make this statement incorrectly and it cannot be used as a proof.
It is worth mentioning that the one who wants to understand the Qur’an without the language in which it was sent down has suspended understanding the Qur’an and acting upon it. So, with that he has perpetrated a great sin, as the Qur’an was sent down in the Arabic language and without it it is not possible to understanding it correctly.
So, because of that الفقهاء the jurists were very keen for the Arabic language and its knowledge, not to mention المجتهدين the scholars became firmly established in understanding the Qur’an and extracting the shariah rules from it.
Much of the misguidance had as its origin in the weakness in Arabic and the lack of restricting the verses of Allah to their meanings according to the implications of this language that Allah specifically limited His book to. Such that Rasul Allah (saw) said when a man erred in his speech: “ارشدوا أخاكم فقد ضل” “guide your brother, for he has been misguided”, so Rasul Allah (saw) called the linguistic errors misguidance in consideration of what it will lead to. i.e. He mentioned the effect (misguidance) instead of the cause (linguistic errors).
Umar (raa) came across people doing archery poorly, so he rebuked them.
They said: إنا قوم متعلمين [when it should be إنا قوم متعلمون] so he turned away from them saying: “By Allah, your tongue’s mistakes are more severe than your mistakes at archery! I heard Rasul Allah (saw) say:
رحم الله امرأ أصلح من لسانه “Allah was merciful with a man whom He perfected his tongue”
The Qur’an is Arabic in language, so cannot be understood except with this language. Whoever wants to straighten their aqeedah and understand the shariah rules with knowledge, then he should perfect his language and perfect his deen, as Rasul Allah (saw) taught his companions, and as they (raa) went according to his sunnah. They worshipped Allah with knowledge and were of the successful ones.
Whoever does not have suitable knowledge of the Arabic language should not plunge into the verses of the Allah trying to explain them without the Arabic language that it was sent down in. He must ask those who have knowledge, learning from them the meaning of the verses of Allah. Truly, statements about Allah’s verses without knowledge is a grave matter with Allah, bringing Allah’s anger to the one who does it. We seek refuge in Him the glorified from His anger and from the fire, and we ask Him the glorified for His pleasure and al-Jannah.
As for the second statement: The ones who say it are in two groups:
A group that views that there is حقيقة and مجاز in the language, but there is only الحقيقة in the Qur’an
A group that views that there is no مجاز in the language or in the Qur’an, rather all that came of the Arabs usage of terms and meanings, all of that حقيقة in the language and in the Qur’an are the same.
As for the first group, their statement cannot be used as a proof, as the one who establishes that المجاز exists in the language, he must also affirm that it is in the Qur’an, as Allah (jalla jallalahu) said of the book:
“We sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an” [Yousuf 2] and
“This is a clear Arabic tongue” [an-Nahl 103],
so it is Arabic in language. As long as the Arabic language contains المجاز and it is used in the language of the Arabs, their styles and speech, and the Qur’an was sent down in the language of the Arabs, so there is no choice but to affirm that in the Qur’an is المجاز also. That is from one perspective.
From another perspective, the Qur’an actually does contain مجاز of speech, and none denies that except one who is arrogant or stubborn.
His statement (jalla jallalahu) : “they put their fingers in their ears” [al-Baqarah 19] is using الأصابع fingers for other than what it was originally put down for, rather for just a part of the fingers, i.e. only their tips, as this is what is put into the ears.
And His statement (jalla jallalahu) : “and ask the village” [Yousuf 82] is مجاز , because the walls and buildings of the village is not the one who is asked, rather its people are asked, i.e. “ask the people of the village”.
And His statement (jalla jallalahu) : “and the valleys flow according to their measure” [ar-Ra’d 17] is مجاز , because that which flow are not the valleys in reality, i.e. not the hollowed out piece of the earth, rather it is the water that is in it. i.e. “and the water that is in the valleys flows”.
And His statement (jalla jallalahu) : “I saw myself pressing wine” [Yousuf 36] is مجاز , because that which are pressed are the grapes. (خمر) Wine was mentioned but grapes were wanted, i.e. what was wanted from the term is not الحقيقة.
And there are many more than that, that the one who has awareness and contemplation does not deny.