AHADITH ON INTERPRETING THE HOLY QUR’AN
WITHOUT SOUND KNOWLEDGE
There are a number of Hadith related to the issue of interpreting the Holy Qur’an without sound knowledge. Two of them are found in the collection of Ahadith known as Mishkatul Masabih by Imam al-Tabrizi (ash-Shafi’i), one from Ibn Abbas and the other from Jundub (Allah be pleased with them):-
(A) Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as saying: “He who speaks about the Qur’an on the basis of his personal opinion (only) would find his abode in Hell fire. In another version: He who speaks about the Qur’an without sound knowledge of it would find his abode in Hell fire.” (Tirmidhi).
(B) Jundub (Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as saying: “He who speaks about the Qur’an on the basis of his personal opinion (by any accord) he commits an error, even if he is right.” (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawood). (See Mishkatul- Masabih, 1/234-235, English ed’n)
The above two Hadiths have also been quoted by Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya in his Muqaddima fi usool al-Tafseer (English trans’n by M.A.H. Ansari under the title: ‘An Introduction to the Principles of Tafseer’, pg. 60) where he said after quoting Jundub’s (Allah be pleased with him) version: “Al-Tirmidhi thinks that this Hadith is rare (gharib). Other scholars of Hadith are not sure about the veraciousness of Suhayl ibn Abi Hizaam, who is one of its transmitters (in the Sanad). However a number of scholars from the companions and others have been reported to have condemned in the same vein the effort to explain the Qur’an without knowledge.” But in the footnotes on the same page of the above book (no’s 158 and 159) it was stated that al-Albani had declared both Hadiths (A) and (B) above to be DAEEF in his checking of Mishkatul- Masabih.
I say: this is only one opinion out of many on the status of the above Ahadith. It seems that even Ibn Taymiyya after quoting the Hadith from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) accepted it, (although he had reservations about the Hadith from Jundub) since he kept quiet about declaring it inauthentic; but Allah knows best.
In fact Imam al-Tirmidhi classified the Hadith reported from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) to be Hasan Sahih (see Ulum al-Qur’an, pg. 132, fn. 20, by Ahmad Von Denffer) and the Hadith related from Jundub (Allah be pleased with him) was classified to be Hasan, by the great scholar of Hadith, Imam al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505; Rahimahullah) in his al-Jami al-Saghir. This classificaton was also said to be Hasan, by al-Imam Munawi (d. 1031/1622; Rahimahullah) in his checking and commentary of Imam Suyuti’s above named book; due to the existence of other variant narrations that strengthen it. (vide: Fayd al-Qadir Sharh al-Jami l-Saghir, vol.6. pg. 191-92, by Imam al-Munawi). Other narrations on this issue are as follows:-
Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as saying three times: “Opinion based arguments (controverting) about the Qur’an are Kufr.” Then he said: “What you know of it, act upon it; and what you are ignorant of, refer to one who knows (e.g. a qualified Mufassir).” (related by Imam’s Ahmad and Abu Ya’la; see also Sunan Abu Dawood, 3/4586; English ed’n for half of the narration)
Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) said: “I will give an exemplary punishment to any man brought to me who is not knowledgeable in Arabic yet interprets (tafsir) Allah’s Book.” (related by Imam al-Bayhaqi; see Hafiz al-Dhahabi’s at-Tafsir wa’l Mufasiroon, vol. 1, pg. 274 )
Imam Mujahid (Rahimahullah) the disciple of the great Companion Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) said: “It is not permissible for anyone who believes in Allah and the last day to interpret Allah’s Book if he is not knowledgeable in the Arabic language.” (vide: Mabahith fi Uloom al-Qur’an, pg. 331, by M. al-Qattan)
I leave it to the noble reader to decide whose classification you would prefer! May be those ignorant people who go around interpreting the Holy Qur’an without the requisite qualifications (as amongst the generality of the “Salafiyya”) in their ‘study’ circles, may take heed of the above Hadiths and their classifications by the great scholars of Hadith.