An Explanation of Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah’s Introduction to the Principles of Tafsir

The Quran is the greatest miracle for mankind, yet how many of us truly understand its beautiful message and the sciences that surround it?

This book is one of the many written on this topic. In it, the renowned author Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah outlines the principles employed by the scholars in understanding the verses of the Qur'an. What makes this book unique is the fact that it is combined with Shaykh Ibn Uthayman’s detailed explanation of the original text. So, the reader benefits from both the original work and the detailed explanation of the work, all in an easy to follow, smooth, accessible format.

Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad ibn Abdul-Halim ibn Taymiyyah came from a scholarly family and was born in Harran in the year 661 AH. He and his family later fled to Damascus due to the Tartar occupation. From a young age, Ibn Taymiyyah excelled in his studies and was especially noted for his memory, intelligence and understanding. He mastered all of the various sciences of Islam and began to give religious rulings at the age of 19, and first started teaching at 22. Ibn Taymiyyah’s life was distinguished with his jihad against the Tartars and his struggle against the people of innovation, which lead to many imprisonments; the last of which lasted until his death in 728 AH.

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The Prophet ﷺ said: “If Allah intends good for anybody then he gives him understanding (fiqh) in deen”.

It is not possible for the one  with understanding (fiqh) to be without usul al-fiqh or for the usuli (the one who knows usul al-fiqh) to do without fiqh if he wants to have understanding (of the deen) - Shaykh Al-Uthaymin, Kitab Al-Ilm.

This book is the first of the Usul Series, which consists of various books of the Principles (Usul) of the religion.

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Causes of Victory and Defeat

O brethren: We all must depend on Allah and observe conditions for victory, some of which are:

First: Sincerity of intention to Allah, so that we intend by our jihad raising of the Word of Allah, establishing of the Sharee`ah, and the rule of the of Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam [transl: i.e and that we do not fight for nationalistic causes and such].

Second: That we practice patience and piety (taqwa), for Allah is with the patient, and He is with the god-fearing. We must be patient in jihad and have taqwa of Allah by observing His orders and leaving His prohibitions, for variance with the orders of Allah and His Messenger is a cause of defeat. The Companions who disobeyed orders of Allah’s Messenger, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, in the battle of Uhud, were defeated because of that, after they were victorious at first. But after that, Allah’s forgiveness reached them so He forgave them.

Third: That we know our strength - and that there is no power or movement except with Allah - so that we are not amazed by our strength and numbers, for conceitedness and being proud of oneself is a cause of defeat. The companions were amazed with their numbers in the battle of Hunayn, but they didn’t benefit them in any way. They were then turned back, fleeing, but Allah sent His tranquility upon His Messenger, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, and upon the believers, and sent an army from His angels so the final victory was for the believers.

Fourth: That we prepare material strength for use against enemies- what is appropriate of arms and strength in that particular time and situation - so that we may respond to the weaponry of the enemy with its like.

When we fulfill these four matters, then, as Allah ta`ala said,

 "O you who have believed, if you support Allah, He will support you and plant firmly your feet.“ [Muhammad (47):7] 

"And Allah will surely support those who support Him (i.e. in His cause). Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might. [And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters.” [Hajj (22):40-41] 


Just like there are causes of victory, there are also causes of defeat. From them are:

First: Being extravagant, negligent with regards to Allah’s rights, doing what Allah forbade and leaving what He ordered, so that defeat be a measure of discipline and an expiation for one’s evil deeds.

Second: Taking pride in one’s self, power, greatness in numbers, or material strength.

Third: Disunity and differing. Allah ta`ala said:

 "Do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart.“ [Al-Anfal (8):46] 


Allah clarified in His book these three causes of defeat so that people be warned about them. In the battle of Uhud, disobedience, dissension and disagreement occurred among some Muslims, and it led to their defeat. Allah ta`ala said,

 "And what struck you on the day the two armies met [at Uhud] was by permission of Allah that He might make evident the [true] believers.” [Aal `Imraan (3):166] 


A great wisdom is mentioned in this.

In Hunayn, Muslims were amazed by their numbers. They were twelve thousand, and some said, “Today we cannot be defeated because of a small number”, so Allah ta`ala said informing about that day:

 "…and on the day of Hunayn, when your great number pleased you, but it did not avail you at all, and the earth was confining for you with [i.e. in spite of] its vastness; then you turned back, fleeing. Then Allah sent down His tranquility upon His Messenger and upon the believers and sent down soldiers [i.e. angels] whom you did not see and punished those who disbelieved. And that is the recompense of the disbelievers. Then Allah will accept repentance after that for whom He wills; and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.“ [At-Taubah (9): 25-27] 


The wisdom in this is that servants should know that victory is from Allah ta`ala and that it is not achieved only by having the means for victory and by vanquishing the enemy, especially when the servant is being proud and is forgetting that all matters happen only by the permission of Allah, and that the servant, when he relies on his strength, is entrusted to his weakness and feebleness. Therefore, since these three matters - negligence with regards to the rights of Allah, conceitedness and dissension and differing - are from the causes of defeat, it is obligatory for armies of the sincere to ponder these causes and how they brought about their defeat, and then end that disease, so that the final outcome be good.

 "But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah knows, while you know not.” [al-Baqarah (2):216] 


O brethren: Allah ta`ala said,

 "And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war [or equipment which serves the same purpose] by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.“ [al-Anfaal (8):60] 


Allah ta`ala ordered that we prepare against our enemies what we are able of power, and the word strength here is an indefinite noun, as is apparent, and the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam explained the intended meaning by saying:

 "Verily, the strength is throwing [i.e. shooting], verily the strength is throwing.”


He also said, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam,

 "[Learn to] throw and [learn to] ride and if you [learn to] throw, it is dearer to me than if you [learn to] ride.“


So Allah ta`ala ordered that we prepare what we are able of power, and the Prophet, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, explained the strength to mean throwing (i.e shooting). Then Allah ta`ala said:

 ”…and of steeds of war [or equipment which serves the same purpose] by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows.“ 


The enemy of Allah and our enemy are those who disbelieve and make their disbelief public, and others whom we do not know but whom Allah knows. It is said: What is meant here are those who are far from the believers on that day; that is far, with regards to their place. And it is said, hypocrites are intended with these words. Allah ta`ala said:

 "And among those around you of the bedouins are hypocrites, and [also] from the people of Madinah. They have become accustomed to hypocrisy. You do not know them, [but] We know them.” [At-Taubah (9):101] 


Because, when hypocrites see the glory of Islam, they will be terrified and fearful. For this reason, hypocrisy in this Ummah did not happen until after the battle of Badr, when Allah gave glory to Muslims, and humiliated the polytheists. And what is intended by “others besides them” are either people whom fighting of the believers hasn’t reached yet and the believers do not know about them (i.e. they had wanted to fight and oppose the believers, but didn’t because they became fearful after the believers defeated the polytheists), or hypocrites.

by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Sâlih al-‘Uthaymîn

Whenever you will fear Allāh then trust that He will make a way out for you from every hardship.
—  Sh. Ibn Uthaymin | Sharh Riyād us-Salihīn, (1/517)
People ought to show regard for other’s hearts. When someone’s heart breaks, one should strive to mend it with what he can; because in this lies a great virtue.
—  Shaikh Salih Ibn `Uthaymin
Liberalism, Secularism, and Globalization Explained by Shaykh Uthaymeen (1421 H)

Questioner: Is it permissible to apply the term secularist, or liberal upon the person who boast with these labels and he says he is a secularist, and a liberal and he openly opposes the implementation of Sharia?

Shaykh Uthaymeen: Who is the liberal?

Questioner: The one who calls to absolute freedom without restrictions.

Shaykh Uthaymeen: It is obligatory upon the leaders prosecute the likes of these individuals and sentence them according to what the Sharia requires. Because the person who calls to absolute freedom from every restriction even if it is a religious based restriction; then this person is a disbeliever.

What is the meaning of us saying: You are free, pray or don’t pray, fast or don’t fast, pay Zakat or don’t pay Zakat?

This means the person denies an obligation from the obligations of Islam; rather he denies all the obligations of Islam. He allows fornication and homosexuality, and alcohol; is this not the case? How can this person be a Muslim? This person is an apostate, a disbeliever. This person is to be judged (by the Muslim ruler). He is told to return to the religion of Islam and keephis evil away from the Muslims if he does not do so; then he is executed (by the authority of the Muslim ruler).

As for the secularist; I do not have awareness of them, if you have knowledge of them, then describe them to us and we will judge by what we see is necessary.

Questioner: They are those who view religion and government should be separated.

Shaykh Uthaymeen: These are lesser than those mentioned first; as they are more dangerous.

If the country does not rule by the religion of Islam then it is lost. And Subhana Allah the Exalted, every verse in the Quran and every Hadith from the Sunnah, all of it proves that Islam is the country. Meaning it is obligatory upon the country to apply Islam upon itself and its laws, and its people.

In any case: I advise my brothers who are true believers to be firm in the face of these movements. Because now the disbelievers, due to what Allah the Exalted has given them from industrial power and control over the people they want to remove the Muslims from their religion, by using words that resemble the truth but they are not the truth.

Like globalization for example. Globalization means: All the people are free and they are all the same. The markets in the metropolis of disbelief and the markets in the metropolis of Islam are the same. Sell what you want, buy what you want; you have freedom in everything.

Thus it is upon the Muslim—upon the ruler first and the people second—to combat globalization, and to not easily accept it. Because the end result is it leads to the Jews, Christians, Magians, apostates, Muslims, and hypocrites are being the same; globalization of the world. Thus it is upon us to reject this ideology. And all praises belong to Allah, perhaps if the rulers find pressure from the people he will respond to them; even the rulers who do not care to apply the Sharia. As for the rulers who give importance to applying the Sharia and advocating it in every opportunity, then we hope the cure will come from their midst and they will not require and cure from the outside.

Translated by Rasheed ibn Estes Barbee

Some men treat their wives as butlers. They have them only for intercourse and services. They speak to them in a bad way and look down upon them to. They then want the wives to be good to them.
—  Sh. Ibn ‘Uthaymin | ‘al-Liqa’ ash-Shahri’ (No. 40)
Causes of 'eeman decreasing

Shaykh Muhammad al-‘Uthaymin states: 

“As for the decrease of iman, it has causes:

Committing acts of disobedience, iman decreases according to the class of sin, its amount, the indifference the person has towards it and the strength or weakness of the incentive to perpetrate it.

As for its class and amount; the decrease of iman by major sins is greater than that by the minor sins. The decrement of iman by killing a soul unlawfully is greater than (illegally) devouring valued wealth. Its decrease by two acts of disobedience is greater than one act of disobedience and so on.

As for being indifferent to the sin; if an act of disobedience emanates from a heart that thinks little of who it is disobeying and has little fear of Him, then the resultant decrease will be greater than if it were to emanate from a heart that glorifies Allah and is very fearful of Him except that an act of disobedience inadvertently occurs from him.

Concerning the strength of the motive for committing the sin; if an act of disobedience emerges from a person whose incentives for doing the sin are weak, then the resultant decrease of his iman will be much greater than if it were to emerge from one whose incentives for doing the sin are strong.

This is why the display of arrogance by a poor person and an illegal sexual encounter by an old person are more sinful than the display of arrogance by a rich person and an illegal sexual encounter by a young person. As in the hadith: 'Three (types of people) whom Allah will not speak to. He will not look at them on the Day of Resurrection or sanctify them and they will have a painful punishment.’

Mentioned amongst these three are the gray-haired fornicator and the poor person who is arrogant, because of the lack of strong motives they have for embarking on these disobedient acts.” (Fath al Bariyyah pg. 65)

Ibn al-‘Uthaymin رحمه الله said,

“Allah ﷻ is Wise. He might test a slave with a particular sin so that he may return to Him in repentance.”

[Al-Mumti, 3/52]

In my view, a successful teacher is the teacher who nurtures students. Those who merely fill the minds of youth and students with knowledge without giving them proper direction, then this is inadequate.
—  Shaykh Muhammad b. al-‘Uthaymin
Every time one wants to give charity, the Devil comes and says that one will become poor if one does it. Thus one becomes stingy.
—  Sh. Ibn ‘Uthaymin | Ahkam-ul-Qur’ān, (2/291)

Ibn al-‘Uthaymin رحمه الله said,

“Allah ﷻ is Wise. He might test a slave with a particular sin so that he may return to Him in repentance.”

[Al-Mumti, 3/52]

Ibn ‘Uthaymin:

The woman experiences happiness with her husband when he fulfils his obligations, shows her love and helps her. The same is true regarding the man.

('al-Liqa’ ash-Shahri’ 40)