Need for tafseer among the Companions of the Prophet

Praise be to Allah,

Allah revealed the Quran in Arabic language. The companions of our beloved prophet Muhamamd, peace and blessings be upon him understood it and implemented it. However, they would turn to prophet Muhamad, peace and blessings be upon him time to time for tafseer of the Quran. This was done more in the cases where verses were ambiguous in the Qur’aan. We will present two evidence to support this:


‘Abdullaah ibn Mas‘ood said that when the verse: “It is those who believe and do not confuse their faith with wrongdoing[i],” was revealed, the Companions of Allaah’s Messenger were distressed. They said: Who among us does not wrong himself? The Prophet remarked, “It is not as you think. It is only what Luqmaan told his son: Indeed, shirk is the greatest wrongdoing[ii].”[iii]

Thus, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, made it clear for them that the broader meaning of thulm (wrongdoing) was not intended in the first verse; rather it was used to refer to shirk[iv].


Aisha reported: I asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, about this verse, “Those who give what they give while their hearts are afraid,” (23:60). Aisha said, “Are these ones who drink wine and steal?” The Prophet said, “No, O daughter of the truthful, rather they are those who fast, pray, and give charity while they fear it will not be accepted from them. They are those who race towards virtue.[v]

After the generation of the noble companions, may Allah be please with them all, and those who followed them, tafseer of the quran began containing mixture of truth and falsehood. This was done to suit the fanaticism or madhab or the sects they belong to.

The tafseer scholar Jalaalud-Deen as-Suyootee (d. 1505 CE/910 AH) noted the following:

I have seen approximately ten different opinions concerning the tafseer of the verse:

“Not the path of those on whom is Your anger nor those who have gone astray[vi]” in spite of the fact that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and his companions (sahaabah) and their students (taabi‘oon) all related that the verse referred to none other than the Jews and the Christians. And (one of the early scholars) Ibn Abee Haatim said concerning this verse, “I know of no disagreement among the scholars of tafseer about it”[vii].



[i]  82nd verse of chapter 6 (sūrat l-anʿām)


[ii] verse 13 of chapter 31 (sūrat luq’mān


[iii] Sahih Muslim 1: 72, no. 226


[v] Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol- 5 Hadith 4198

[vi] Soorah al-Faatihah (1):7

[vii] Quoted in Mabaahith fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’aan, p. 345.

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