Qur'an / Tafsir

Tafsir of Surat al-Nisa’ Verse 141 “Allah will never allow the disbelivers…”


{Allah will never allow the non-believers to have a way (sabil) over the believers}


{Allah will never allow the non-believers to have a way (sabilan) over the believers [Surat al-Nisa’:141]}…“and refers to the Day of Judgment if by “sabil” is meant ‘victory’ and ‘triumph’ or the present world if by “sabil” is meant ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’. Ibn `Atiyya said: the majority of the commentators say it refers to the Day of Judgment. Ibn al-`Arabi however said that this opinion was weak because the report in the verse would be redundant and that such an interpretation was based on thinking that the end part of the sentence refers back to the initial part, i.e. the part that reads {And Allah will judge between them on the Day of Judgment} which would be pointless and non-beneficial because it would just be a repetition of the same point. It is also said that Allah will not allow the non-believers to have a way over the believers to mean to obliterate or exterminate their state or to extinguish their tradition and legacy or to prevail completely over their lands as indicated by the sahih narration…”[1]

هذا في يوم القيامة إذا كان المراد بالسبيل: النصر والغلب، أو في الدنيا إن كان المراد به الحجة. قال ابن عطية: قال جميع أهل التأويل: إن المراد بذلك يوم القيامة. قال ابن العربي: وهذا ضعيف لعدم فائدة الخبر فيه، وسببه توهم من توهم أن آخر الكلام يرجع إلى أوّله يعني قوله: { فَٱللَّهُ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَكُمْ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ } وذلك يسقط فائدته، إذ يكون تكرار هذا معنى كلامه وقيل المعنى: إن الله لا يجعل للكافرين سبيلاً على المؤمنين يمحو به دولتهم، ويذهب آثارهم، ويستبيح بيضتهم، كما يفيده الحديث الثابت في الصحيح

  • The negation particle ‘lan’ in the verse is emphatic and is grammatically known as the ‘negation of the future’ (li nafy al-mustaqbal).
  • So, Allah will never allow or want – ever – the enemies of the believers to establish themselves, preside over them or to dominate them.
  • The noble mufassirun have commented that the word ‘sabilan’ (‘way’, ‘path’ or ‘means’) can mean at least three things in the verse:

[1] That the non-believers will not have a way over the believers on the Day of Judgment;

[2] That they will not triumph, prevail or conquer (al-zuhur) the believers in the dunya and

[3] That the non-believers will never be the competent authority or intellectual proof (hujjah) over the Muslims in the dunya, rather it will be the other way around.[2]

  • The reality is that the non-believers do have political dominance and intellectual authority over the believers in this world. So how then is the truth of this verse maintained? The answer: the interpretation must involve a required meaning (dalalat al-iqtida’) to give validity and truthfulness (sidq) to the report (khabr) in the verse. This diverts the meaning to a decisive prohibition (nahy jazim) of not allowing non-believers authority over the believers. Thus, it becomes mandatory for Muslims to prevent non-believers from having authority over them.
  • Imam Taqi al-Din al-Nabhani (ra) writes: “…dalalat al-iqtida’ is that thing which is necessary, derived and required from the meanings of the words (ma’ani al-alfaz) in that it is a condition for there to be congruous meaning of what is indicated. The necessary aspect (al-lazim) is sometimes required by reason (al-`aql) or by the Law (al-shar`)[3] and is required for either making the speech of the speaker correct and truthful or for making what is stated valid […] and another example is Allah’s saying {Allah will never allow the non-believers to have a way (sabilan) over the believers}.[4] The non-believers having authority over the believers sometimes occurs as in the time of the Messenger of Allah in Mecca because there were Muslims under the rule of the disbelievers [s: i.e. the Quraysh]. This was also the case after the Messenger of Allah (saw) as in al-Andalus where some Muslims were under the authority of the non-believers. The same holds for today. [From the verse] there is a prohibition of permitting the non-believers to have an authority over the believers through the particle “lan” which indicates a permanent negation (li ’l-ta’bid), i.e. a prohibition from allowing it to ever occur…so it is not lawful for non-believers to have a way over the believers. This is an example of what the Law requires in order to maintain the truth of the report.”[5]
And Allah knows best.

[1] al–Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir, p.426

[2] For more on the tafsir of this verse, see for example, Imam Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, p.336; al-Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir, p.426; al-Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, vol.1, p.244; al-Nasafi, Madarik al-Tanzil, p.260; al-Baghawi, Ma`alim al-Tanzil, vol. p.492 and Imam al-Shinqiti, Adwa’ al-Bayan fi Idah al-Qur’an bi ’l-Qur’an, vol.1, p.378.

[3] Or by language (lughatan); see Shaykh `Ata’ b. Khalil, al-Taysir al-Wusul ila’l-Usul, pp.160-161.

[4] See Q.4:141.

[5] al-Nabhani, al-Shakhsiyya al-Islamiyya, vol.3, pp.183-184.

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