Qur'an / Tafsir

Ayat al-Kursi : A Tafsir of the Majestic Verse

 

The Tafsir of Ayat al-Kursi

Intro:

  • It is recited everyday after the Prayer or for other purposes.
  • Ii is well known but people rarely ponder over its meaning.
  • It is one of the most sublime and majestic examples of Qur’anic style.
  • It is a compressed articulation of the Divine in a single verse.
  • The doctrine has practical and spiritual repercussions for the believer.

Part 1.

Translation:

{In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Allah! There is no God but He,
the Living, the Self-subsisting, the Eternal.
No slumber can seize Him, nor sleep.
All things in heaven and earth are His.
Who could intercede in His presence without His permission?
He knows what appears in front of and behind His creatures.
Nor can they encompass any knowledge of Him except what he wills.
His throne extends over the heavens and the earth,
and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them,
for He is the Highest and Most Exalted}.

Part 2:

Fada’il of the Verse:

  • The excellences (fada’il) of Ayat al-Kursi are many as collected by Imam al-Suyuti in his extensive commentary of the Qur’an in the narrative genre (tafsir bi ’l-riwayat).
  • Below however are only 3 of these excellences:

[A] The Exalted status of the verse: “Ahmad with the wording in Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ibn Durays, al-Hakim and al-Harawi have reported regarding the excellence [of Ayat al-Kursi] from Ubay Ibn Ka`b that the Prophet was asked about which verse of the Holy Qur’an was the most exalted and he replied: Ayat al-Kursi {Allah. There is no deity except Allah the Living and Everlasting…}… By Him in whose Hand is my soul; [this verse] has a tongue and two lips with which it sanctifies the King at the foot of the Throne.”[1]

In another version: “Bukhari narrates in his Ta’rikh, al-Tabarani as well as Abu Nu`aym in al-Ma`rifa with his chain of transmission (isnad) who are all upright from Ibn al-Asqa` al-Bakri that the Prophet (SAW) was asked which verse of the Qur’an was the most exalted and he replied: {Allah! There is no God but He the Living, the Self-subsisting, the Eternal. No slumber can seize nor can sleep…} until he finished the verse.”[2]

أخرج أحمد واللفظ له ومسلم وأبو داود وابن الضريس والحاكم والهروي في فضائله عن أبي كعب: أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم سأله أي آية في كتاب الله أعظم؟ قال: آية الكرسي { الله لا إله إلا هو الحي القيوم } قال ليهنك العلم أبا المنذر، والذي نفسي بيده إن لها لساناً وشفتين تقدس الملك عند ساق العرش

وأخرج البخاري في تاريخه والطبراني وأبو نعيم في المعرفة بسند رجاله ثقات عن ابن الأسقع البكري :أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم جاءهم في صفة المهاجرين، فسأله إنسان أي آية في القرآن أعظم؟ فقال النبي { الله لا إله إلا هو الحي القيوم لا تأخذه سنة ولا نوم } حتى انقضت الآية.

[B] Its protective power: “al-Bayhaqi narrates in his Shu`ab al-Iman[3] from Anas who said: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: Whoever recites the Ayat al-Kursi after every obligatory salah, he will be protected until the next salah and none but the Prophets, Siddiq or martyrs were firm on it…”[4]

“Ibn al-Najjar narrates in his Ta’rikh Baghdad from Ibn `Abbas who said: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: Whoever recites Ayat al-Kursi after every obligatory salah, Allah will grant him the heart of those who are thankful, the deeds of the siddiqun, the rewards of the Prophets and will extend his right hand with Mercy and will not prevent him from entering Paradise until he dies whereupon he will be made to enter it.”[5]

وأخرج البيهقي في شعب الإِيمان عن أنس قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: من قرأ في دبر كل صلاة مكتوبة آية الكرسي حفظ إلى الصلاة الأخرى، ولا يحافظ عليها إلا نبي أو صديق أو شهيد

وأخرج ابن النجار في تاريخ بغداد عن ابن عباس قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: من قرأ آية الكرسي في دبر كل صلاة مكتوبة أعطاه الله قلوب الشاكرين، وأعمال الصديقين، وثواب النبيين، وبسط عليه يمينه بالرحمة، ولم يمنعه من دخول الجنة إلا أن يموت فيدخلها

[C] The Exalted name of God is contained within it: Ibn Abi ’l-Dunya in his al-Du`a’, al-Tabarani, Ibn Mardawayh, al-Harawi in his Fada’il as well as al-Bayhaqi in [Kitab] al-Asma` wa’l-Sifat all report from Abu Umama that the Prophet said: the Exalted Name of Allah is in three chapters of the Qur’an which if one calls Him by it He responds. al-Baqara, Ali `Imran and Ta-Ha. Abu Umama said: I looked for them and found that in al-Baqara:255 there was the Ayat al-Kursi {Allah. There is no deity except Allah the Living and Everlasting}; in Al `Imran:2 there was {Allah. There is no deity except Allah the Living and Everlasting} and in Ta-Ha:111 {And [all] faces shall be humbled before (Allah), the Ever Living}…”[6]

وأخرج ابن أبي الدنيا في الدعاء والطبراني وابن مردويه والهروي في فضائله والبيهقي في الأسماء والصفات عن أبي أمامة يرفعه قال : اسم الله الأعظم الذي إذا دعي به أجاب في ثلاث سور: سورة البقرة، وآل عمران، وطه، قال أبو أمامة: فالتمستها فوجدت في البقرة في آية الكرسي { الله لا إله إلا هو الحي القيوم{ وفي آل عمران { الله لا إله إلا هو الحي القيوم } وفي طه} وعنت الوجوه للحي القيوم }

  • We know as mentioned in the tafsir of Imam al-Qurtubi that when Ayat al-Kursi was revealed.

“From Muhammad al-Hanafiyya who narrates that: when Ayat al-Kursi was revealed, every idol and every king in the world fell in prostration and the crowns of kings fell off their heads. Devils fled (harabat), colliding in one another in confusion until they came to their [chief] Iblis and they told him of this [event] and he sent them to find out what had happened so when they came to Medina they were told that Ayat al-Kursi had been revealed.”[7]

روى عن محمد بن الحنفية أنه قال: لما نزلت آية الكرسي خرّ كل صنم في الدنيا، وكذلك خرّ كل ملِك في الدنيا وسقطت التيجان عن رؤوسهم، وهربت الشياطين يضرب بعضهم على بعض إلى أن أتوا إبليس فأخبروه بذلك فأمرهم أن يبحثوا عن ذلك، فجاءوا إلى المدينة فبلغهم أن آية الكرسي قد نزلت.

  • The verse of the Qur’an is theologically loaded. = the encapsulation of Islam’s cardinal doctrine of tawhid (Allah’s unity).
  • It is also a source for philosophical/rational reflection about God and his attributes.
  • There are also relevant practical implications for any person serious about the religion, da`wa and developing themselves to become better committed believers.
  • The verse has 16 occurrences of ascriptions to God 7 being of a direct divine name or nominal term.

Allah /

[الله]

Ilah /

[إِلَـهَ]

Huwa /

[هُوَ]

Al-Hayy /

[الـحيّ]

Qayyum /

[القـيوم]

Al-`Ali /

[العَلِىُّ]

Al-`Azim /

[العَظِيمُ]

  • It has 10 complete sentences.
  • Each expresses a distinct concept and idea about the Divine.

Part 3:

Basic Commentary.

[A] “Allah” / [الله]: God’s exalted name (ism jalala) that he has reserved for himself and is not derived from any root.[8]

  • “There is no deity but He The Eternal and Everlasting” / [لا إله إلا هو]:
  • Here there is a negation (la nafiyat al-jins) i.e. Allah’s emphatic and total negation of anything resembling a deity that can be compared to Him. Nothing is comparable to him.[9]
  • Tawhid requires emphatic language.

“The second point: Some say ‘al-ilah’ means ‘the one worshipped’ (al-ma’bud) but this is incorrect from two aspects. The first aspect is that The Most High was an ilah from all eternity but was not someone who was a ma`bud (‘a being worshipped’ [S. meaning he did not have the property of ‘being worshipped’]). The second aspect is that the Most high has affirmed and mentioned other beings who are worshipped aside from himself as in {you and what you all worship besides Allah [al-Anbiya’:98]}. Rather, an Ilah is a being that when it does something, is worthy of total religious worship…].[10]

المسألة الثانية: قال بعضهم: الإلٰه هو المعبود، وهو خطأ لوجهين الأول: أنه تعالى كان إلٰهاً في الأزل، وما كان معبوداً والثاني: أنه تعالى أثبت معبوداً سواه في القرآن بقوله { إِنَّكُمْ وَمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ } [الأنبياء: 98] بل الإلٰه هو القادر على ما إذا فعله كان مسحتقاً للعبادة.

  • Thus, a deity must be a kind of being that is worthy of religious devotion, total submission and obedience.
  • Allah is a perfect being and the nature and attributes that He has require rationally that He be worshipped.
  • Such a being cannot be deficient or lacking in any sense.
  • It must also be free from limitations.

[B] “The Living and Everlasting” / [الحي القيوم]:

  • Allah is living and real – not an abstract inert and disinterested Creator who has set up the world on clockwork and let it run. No. He intervenes in history and acts for the believers. He can change plans, stop who He wants to and realise whatever He wishes in his eternal providential plan.
  • Allah is al-qayyum (‘Everlasting’). The word has connotations of Allah being self-subsistent, Self-existing as well as that Being which holds everything in existence:

“{al-Qayyum} existing by governing the creation or sustaining every person and rewarding with His knowledge from what each has earned. It can also mean holding all things in being; knowledge of all matters…”[11]

{ الْقَيُّومُ } القائم بتدبير الخلق، أو القائم على كل نفس بما كسبت فيجزيها بما علمه منها، أو القائم الموجود، أو العالم بالأمور، قام فلان بالكتاب إذا كان عالماً به، أو أخذ من الاستقامة.

  • = affirming the attribute of eternality, everlastingness, self-subsistence, Divine aseity doctrine, etc.

[C] “Slumber does not seize him nor does fatigue” / [لاَ تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلاَ نَوْمٌ]:

  • Allah is not overcome with any difficulty or deficiencies.
  • He also faces no hindrance in doing whatever He wishes.
  • He can sustain anything in being without any difficulty.
  • = affirming His attribute of Eternal and everlastingness and infinite independent nature.

[D] “All things in heaven and earth belong to Him” / [لَّهُ مَا فِي ٱلسَّمَـٰوَاتِ وَمَا فِي ٱلأَرْضِ]:

“As for the Most High saying {everything in the Heavens and the earth belongs to Him…} it is referring to the creation and dominion and what is implied in this is what we mentioned earlier namely that if a necessarily existent being can only be one, then anything other than it possibly existent being and anything that is merely possible is brought into being and anything that is brought into being is originated and so anything else other than [the necessary being] is originated and contingent..”[12]

أما قوله تعالى: { لَّهُ مَا فِي ٱلسَّمَـٰوَاتِ وَمَا فِي ٱلأَرْضِ } فالمراد من هذه الإضافة إضافة الخلق والملك، وتقديره ما ذكرنا من أنه لما كان واجب الوجود واحداً كان ما عداه ممكن الوجود لذاته وكل ممكن فله مؤثر، وكل ما له مؤثر فهو محدث فإذن كل ما سواه فهو محدث بإحداثه مبدع بإبداعه فكانت هذه الإضافة إضافة الملك والإيجاد

  • The logic is that contingently existing entities (dependent objects) do not have the power intrinsically to effect change or produce anything.
  • They depend for their existence on something else.
  • Allah owns the universe.
  • He governs the Universe.
  • He controls the universe.
  • He is the sovereign Lord and King.

[E] “He knows what appears in front of and behind [all] of His creatures.
Nor can they encompass any knowledge of Him except of what he wills” /  [يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلاَ يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلاَّ بِمَا شَآءَ]:

  • = Allah knows everything: the past, future and present (as well as ‘counterfactuals’ [what someone would have done but did not actually do it]).
  • It can also refer to Allah knowing the present temporal events and the events of the hereafter.
  • = affirmation of Divine Omniscience.

[F] “And His Throne extends over the heavens and the earth” / [وُسْعُ كرسيِّه السمواتُ والأرضُ]:

  • There is much written about the word ‘kursi’ and what it means with divided opinion. Imam al-Mawardi succinctly summarises the various opinions:

“Regarding the Kursi, there are two opinions: the first: it is one of Allah’s attributes and the second: that it is attributes pertaining to something created [by Allah]. Those who hold the first opinion have four interpretations: (1) it is Allah’s knowledge which was the view of Ibn `Abbas; (2) it is Allah’s power; (3) Allah’s dominion and (4) Allah’s planned decree. If it is said [the Kursi] is attributes pertaining to something created [by Allah] then it has three interpretations: (1) it is the Throne itself which was the view of al-Hasan; (2) it is a footstool and not the throne and (3) it is a chair below the throne which is above the water…”[13]

في الكرسي قولان: أحدهما: أنه من صفات الله تعالى.
والثاني: أنه من أوصاف ملكوته.
فإذا قيل إنه من صفات ففيه أربعة أقاويل: أحدها: أنه علم الله، قاله ابن عباس. والثاني: أنه قدرة الله. والثالث: ملك الله. والرابع: تدبير الله. وإذا قيل إنه من أوصاف ملكوته ففيه ثلاثة أقاويل: أحدها: أنه العرش، قاله الحسن. والثاني: أنه سرير دون العرش. والثالث: هو كرسي تحت العرش، والعرش فوق الماء

 

  • Perhaps Imam al-Razi’s preference or approval for the opinion of al-Qaffal is instructive here:

“[...] these words are meant to describe Allah’s greatness and exaltation through images. This means that Allah addressed His creatures in ways familiar to them through their own kings in order that He might make known His essence and attributes to them.  He therefore made the Ka`ba a house for Himself and people perform tawaf around it as they do the houses of their kings and he ordered it to be visited in the same way people visit the houses of their kings. It is also mentioned that the Black Stone is the right hand of Allah on this earth thus He made it an object of reverent kissing as men would kiss the hands of their kings [...] hence by analogy He declared a throne for Himself… ”[14]

والقول الرابع: ما اختاره القفال، وهو أن المقصود من هذا الكلام تصوير عظمة الله وكبريائه، وتقريره أنه تعالى خاطب الخلق في تعريف ذاته وصفاته بما اعتادوه في ملوكهم وعظمائهم من ذلك أنه جعل الكعبة بيتاً له يطوف الناس به كما يطوفون ببيوت ملوكهم وأمر الناس بزيارته كما يزور الناس بيوت ملوكهم وذكر في الحجر الأسود أنه يمين الله في أرضه ثم جعله موضعاً للتقبيل كما يقبل الناس أيدي ملوكهم وكذلك ما ذكر في محاسبة العباد يوم القيامة من حضور الملائكة والنبيّين والشهداء ووضع الموازين، فعلى هذا القياس أثبت لنفسه عرشاً

[G] “For He is the Highest and Most Exalted” / [و هو العلي العظيم]:

  • Imam al-Mawardi explains the different nuances of the term ‘al-`aliy’ (Most High):

“the first opinion is that the word ‘al-`aaliy’ (‘The High’) would be referring to something that resides in an exalted place whereas the word ‘al-`aliy’ (‘The Highest’) is something that is absolutely entitled to the loftiest and exalted place and so may not have anything that shares with it in rank so on this view it would be permitted to describe Allah as ‘The Highest’ but not ‘The High’ whereas on the first view one may describe Allah with both terms…”[15]

أحدهما: أن العالي هو الموجود في محل العلو، والعلي هو مستحق العلو. والثاني: أن العالي هو الذي يجوز أن يُشَارَكَ في علوه، والعلي هو الذي لا يجوز أن يُشَارَكَ في علوه، فعلى هذا الوجه، يجوز أن نصف الله بالعليّ، ولا يجوز أن نصفه بالعالي، وعلى الوجه الأول يجوز أن نصفه بهما جميعاً.

Part 4:

Implications:

  • The magnificence and special status of this verse makes the chapter it occurs in special too because the topic is about Allah’s unity as well as Allah’s nature and attributes. This makes the doctrine lofty and extremely important.
  • We should be on full guard in preserving and maintaining Allah’s transcendence (tanzih) and sovereignty. In other words, we should be pondering about tawhid and its implications. > Are we for example doing anything that might compromise Allah’s sovereignty or are we engaging in anything that might border on or infringe upon His right to be Legislator or Lawgiver.
  • Pondering over Ayat al-Kursi should make us feel humbled before the Majesty and Glory of Allah (SWT). It should remind us of the sheer insignificant standing we have in comparison to Him and how this alerts us to the unjustified character of our haughtiness, arrogance and pride in making ourselves the standard in all things whereas only He has the right to set standards.
  • God is the sovereign King. The Universe is His ranch. He owns the Universe. He controls the forces/causes in this world, He can contravene the laws of nature, He decides what happens or not. This should make us understand that our term has been fixed by Allah and our rizq (sustenance) is fixed (we will get it). We submit to Him on this understanding that when we are enjoined to do a task like carry this call of re-establishing Islam as a way of life through the khilafa, we fear nothing and no-one. Nothing can harm us and nothing can benefit us except if Allah wills.
  • Allah knowing everything, i.e. being Omniscient means He sees and knows everything we do. We cannot hide from Allah so the only thing to do is to flee to Allah. We must also submit to Him and his tadbir (providential organisation of the world and its events). We must rely on Him totally and listen to His commands without question Allah’s foretelling and promises that will come to pass.

References:

http://www.quraan.com/index.aspx?&tabid=22&artid=10

http://forum.bismikaallahuma.org/islam-basics/2804-tafsir-ayat-al-kursi-show-mightiness-allah.html

http://abdurrahman.org/qurantafseer/ibnkathir/ibnkathir_web/2.6754.html

http://forums.islamicawakening.com/f43/points-benefit-deduced-ayat-al-kursi-21175/

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1158658465190&pagename=Zone-English-Living_Shariah%2FLSELayout

http://www.sunnidawateislami.com/salat/kursi.html

http://www.islamicinformationcentre.co.uk/alkursi.htm

S. Z. C.
Peace and blessings be upon
Our Master Muhammad
His Family, his Companions
And all those who follow them.
Amin.

[1] See Muslim, Sahih, 1:556 (#810); al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak ala’l-Sahihayn, 1:561; Abu Dawud, Sunan, 2:27 (#1460) and Ahmad in his Musnad, 5/141 (#21315). See also al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur, 2:6.

[2] al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur, 2:6.

[3] al-Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman, 2:458 (#2395-6).

[4] al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur, 2:6; al-Tabarani, al-Mu`jam al-Kabir, 3:38 (#2732) and al-Haythami, Majma` al-Zawa’id, 2:148.

[5] al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur, 2:6. Cf. al-Nasa’i, al-Sunan al-Kubra, 6:30 (#9928) and al-Tabarani, al-Mu`jam al-Awsat, 8:93 (#8068).

[6] al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur, 2:9.

[7] See al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 2:268.

[8] al-Zajjaj, Ishtiqaq Asma’ Allah, pp.26-42.

[9] See al-Darwish, I`rab al-Qur’an and Karim wa Bayanuhu, 1:283.

[10] al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, 7:2-14.

[11] al-`Izz ibn `Abd al-Salam, Tafsir al-Qur’an, s.v. 2:255.

[12] al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, 7:11.

[13] al-Mawardi, al-Nukat wa ’l-`Uyun, 1:270-271.

[14] al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, 7:12.

[15] al-Mawardi, al-Nukat wa’l-`Uyun, 1:271.

One thought on “Ayat al-Kursi : A Tafsir of the Majestic Verse

Why not leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s