Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayaat 187 – 189
In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala chastises the People of the Scriptures from whom He took the covenant by the words of their prophets. They promised that they would believe in Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and describe him to the people. So that they would recognize him when Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sent him.
However, they hid this truth and preferred the small amounts and the material gains instead of the rewards of this life and the Hereafter that they were promised. This is a losing deal and a failing trade, indeed.
These ayaat also contain a warning for the scholars not to imitate their behavior, so that they do not suffer the same fate and become like them. Therefore, the scholars are required to spread the beneficial knowledge that they have, encouraging the various righteous good deeds. They are also warned against hiding any part of their knowledge.
A hadeeth states that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
مَنْ سُئِلَ عَنْ عِلْمٍ فَكَتَمَهُ، أُلْجِمَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِلِجَامٍ مِنْ نَار
“Whoever was asked about knowledge that he knew but did not disclose it, will be tied with a bridle made of fire on the Day of Resurrection.”
In the Bible, it appears, “You shall, therefore, impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates…” [Deuteronomy 11:18-20]
Allah’s statement, “And never think that those who rejoice in what they have perpetrated and like to be praised for what they did not do…” refers to those who show off, rejoice in what they do and claim to do what they have not done.
The Two Saheehs recorded that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
مَنِ ادَّعَى دَعْوَةً كَاذِبَةً لِيَتَكَثَّرَ بِهَا، لَمْ يَزِدْهُ اللهُ إِلَّا قِلَّة
“Whoever issues a false claim to acquire some type of gain, then Allah will only grant him decrease.”
The Saheeh also recorded,
الْمُتَشَبِّعُ بِمَا لَمْ يُعْطَ، كَلَابِسِ ثَوْبَيْ زُور
“He who claims to do what he has not done, is just like a person who wears two robes made of falsehood.”
Imam Ahmad recorded that Marwan told his guard Rafi’ to go to Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu and proclaim to him, “If every person among us who rejoices with what he has done and loves to be praised for what he has not done will be tormented, we all will be tormented.” Ibn ‘Abbas said, “This ayah was revealed about the People of the Scriptures.” He then recited the ayah,
وَإِذْ أَخَذَ اللَّهُ مِيثَاقَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ لَتُبَيِّنُنَّهُ لِلنَّاسِ وَلَا تَكْتُمُونَهُ فَنَبَذُوهُ وَرَاءَ ظُهُورِهِمْ وَاشْتَرَوْا بِهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا ۖ فَبِئْسَ مَا يَشْتَرُونَ –
“And [mention, O Muhammad], when Allah took a covenant from those who were given the Scripture, [saying], ‘You must make it clear to the people and not conceal it.’ But they threw it away behind their backs and exchanged it for a small price. And wretched is that which they purchased.”
Then he recited,
لَا تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْرَحُونَ بِمَا أَتَوا وَّيُحِبُّونَ أَن يُحْمَدُوا بِمَا لَمْ يَفْعَلُوا
“And never think that those who rejoice in what they have perpetrated and like to be praised for what they did not do…”
Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked them about something, and they hid its knowledge, giving him an incorrect answer. They parted after showing off and rejoicing in front of him because they answered him, so they pretended, and they were delighted that they hid the correct news about what he had asked them.” This was recorded by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i.
Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri said, “During the time of the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, when the Messenger would go to battle, some hypocrite men would remain behind and rejoice because they did not accompany the Prophet in battle. When the Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would come back, they would ask him to excuse them swearing to have some excuse, and wanting to be praised for that which they did not do. So Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed, ‘And never think that those who rejoice in what they have perpetrated and like to be praised for what they did not do…’ to the end of the ayah.” Muslim recorded similarly.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
فَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّهُم بِمَفَازَةٍ مِّنَ الْعَذَابِ ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ –
“…never think them [to be] in safety from the punishment, and for them is a painful punishment…”
Do not think that they will be saved from punishment; rather it will certainly strike them. Allah is the Owner of everything, able to do all things and nothing escapes His might. Therefore, fear Him, never defy Him and beware of His anger and revenge. He is the Greatest, none is greater than Him and the Most Able, and none is more able than He is.
We learn that one of the main responsibilities of the knowledgeable ones is to spread knowledge. It means be sincere and dedicated in learning, implement what you learn and be committed in sharing it with others with excellence. Many people after they get married or start their careers become so busy in their personal lives that they forget Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala did a great favor on them by opening the path of knowledge on them. All of us need to dedicate some time from our daily and weekly routines to learn and teach the knowledge of the Deen.
The criticism in this ayah is not only for the People of the Scripture but for born Muslims as well. We know that our Book is the Qur’an but how many of us have the “knowledge” of the Book? We do not strive in the path of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala but boast the accomplishments of our predecessors. We claim praise for that which we have not done.
Another way of concealing knowledge is twisting the meaning of the Why would someone do this? To gain any worldly favor. Today, this is becoming common in the Muslim families and governments to misquote the Qur’anic ayaat and Ahadeeth.
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