Praise be Allah: Quran and Quran Tafseer with Sheikh Ali Gomaa (على جمعة): Al-An’am (سورة الأنعام), “The Cattle”
Commentary on the Quran is called tafsir (also spelled tafseer [تفسير]). I’ve learned from Ali Gomaa’s teaching on the Forty Hadith and I am looking forward to hearing his teaching on the Quran.
One of my purposes for doing this is to learn about Islam from respected Islamic authorities. As a Christian, I would not be satisfied if Muslims only learned about Christianity from a Muslim. Muslims aren’t going to learn much about the Bible by reading Muslim apologists like Ahmed Deedat. Likewise, I understand that learning about Islam is much more than reading a Christian book or visiting a website that argues against Islam. I understand that the best place to learn about Islam is not the western media, etc. My hope is that Muslims, seeing that I am taking time to learn about Islam would take the time to learn why I do not believe the Qur’an is the Word of God. My hope is that they would study the Bible for themselves and carefully interact with the arguments I have presented in my book available in English or Arabic.
Ali Gomaa is the Grand Mufti of Egypt; he is a scholar and jurist who studied and taught for many years at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University which is arguably the top Islamic University in the world. Ali Gomaa is the second highest Sunni authority in Egypt after Dr. Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad al Tayeb. Ali Gomaa has been listed by the Jordanian Royal Islamic Studies Centre as the 10th most influential Muslim in the world out of its list of 500 people.
I’ll be sharing my notes from Ali Gomaa’s teaching (19 episodes) along with my Christian perspective.
Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa’s Teaching About Surat Al’An’am
Listen to the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa teach about Surat Al’An’am, the 6th chapter of the Qur’an. My notes follow,
Praise be Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth (Qur’an 6:1)
Chapter (Surat) 6 (Al-An’am) of the Qur’an begins, “Praise be Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth“. This entire episode is a discussion of this opening sentence of chapter 6. Here are three translations of Qur’an 6:1:
YUSUF ALI: Praise be Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth, and made the darkness and the light. Yet those who reject Faith hold (others) as equal, with their Guardian-Lord.
PICKTHAL: Praise be to Allah, Who hath created the heavens and the earth, and hath appointed darkness and light. Yet those who disbelieve ascribe rivals unto their Lord.
SHAKIR: All praise is due to Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth and made the darkness and the light; yet those who disbelieve set up equals with their Lord.
The Bismillah (بسم الله) and its occurrence in the Qur’an
Bismillah – “The invocation bi-smi llāhil-raḥmāni l-raḥīm(i), “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,” [بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم] also known as the tasmiya, “naming/uttering (God’s name),” occurs 114 times in the Quran:: at the head of every sura except the ninth, which is entitled “Repentance” (Surat al-Tawba or Surat al-Barāʾa), and also in Quran 27:30 as the opening of Solomon’s letter to the queen of Sheba. Of the 113 occurrences at the head of a sura, only the first, that before the opening sura, Surat al-Fatiḥa, is commonly reckoned as an ayah, i.e. as Quran 1:1, although the other 112 unnumbered prefatory occurrences are still considered part of the sacred text” (“Basmala.” Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān.).
Ali Gomaa says the bismillah “comes between every two surahs of the Qur’an, which has been written by the blessed companions and agreed upon.”
Ali Gomaa says, “Whether the bismillah is an ayah [verse] of each surah [chapter], or is not counted as one, the narration of Hafs counts it in Al-Fatihah, while Nafe’ [Uqba ibn Nafi] does not count [it] as one.”
It sounds like Muslim scholars are divided. Is the bismillah a verse of the Qur’an or not?
Ali Gomaa says, “Nafe’ on the other hand read the way the people of Madinah used to read. That is why the Prophet often began his recitation by all praises be to Allah. When you read it you must say it this way. “Al-Hamdulillah” the lord of the worlds for the story.”
Alhamdulillah also Elhamdulillah – “Praise to God” or “All praise is due to Allah,” similar to the Hebrew Halelu Yah (Hallelujah). Ali Gomaa then talks about Nafe’ and his pronunciation of “Al-Hamdulillah.”
Ali Gomaa discusses “derivation” – the shortening of Qur’anic sentences into short phrases. (2:33-3:30)
“The basmallah is a derivation of ‘In the Name of Allah, The All-Merciful, The Ever-Merciful.” The basmallah means to take parts of the sentence and form a word out of it.”
Other examples of derivation:
- Hamdallah is a derivation from “All praises be to Allah.”
- Damazah is a derivation of “May Allah make your splendor last”
- Talbaka is a derivation of “May Allah prolong your stay.”
Praise be Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth –
Allah’s creation of the heavens and the earth “deserves praise to him.”
“So the creation of the heavens and the earth is a blessing that Allah has bestowed upon humans. Humans could have been created in a place other than the heavens and the earth. His creation for man in the heavens and the earth is best for him. What if you had been created in space? Where there is no ground to remain on top of. This earth is really strange. You stand on it, sit on it, plant and walk on it, then you are buried in it and it provides a shroud for you after your death. The earth is a blessing, an independent one, not like all the other blessings. Meaning that we should not list it under any other blessing. The earth is an independent blessing.”
“Many fail to realize this meaning. When discussing production elements, they listed four elements. The first element: earth. The earth provides the cotton, which becomes clothes and linen which becomes clothes. It gives us wheat, which becomes food. It gives us crops, which becomes fruit. Therefore food, drink, clothes and home all come from the earth. The earth is a very unique and rare blessing.”
“The second element: Labor.” Labor is necessary for profit. I think profit is the the third element. Profit is a motivation to work the earth God created. Management is another element of the earth and man’s relationship to it. The fourth element is guarantee.
As a Christian I do not believe the Qur’an is the Word of God, and you can find out why by reading my book, Is the Qur’an the Word of God.
For Further Study
Altafsir – website providing access to a large online collection of Qur’anic Commentary (tafsir or tafseer), translation, recitation and other resources.
Tafsir, Wikipedia Article
Quranic Studies – contains papers published in peer-reviewed journals.
Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Quran – Muhammad Asad was an Austrian Jew who converted to Islam. His English translation and commentary on the Quran is widely respected.
Steven Masood, Tafsir al-Qur’an
Syed Qutb, In the Shade of the Quran – magnum opus of this leading Islamic theologian of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A Biography of Sheikh Ali Gomaa1“From among Allah’s blessings upon me is that I have never committed a major sin” [1:01:35-1:02:10]
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