Ramadan Day 14: Tafseer on “Bismillaahi and Tawuudh”

Tafseer of the Basmala
بسم الله من الرحمـن الرحيم

Bismi Al-Lahi Ar-Raĥmāni Ar-Raĥīmi

In the name of ALLAH, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

This line can be called بَسْمَلَة (basmala) or تَسْمِيَة (tasmiyah)

It means I start with the name of ALLAH and with HIS mentioning before anything else, seeking HIS (azza wa jalla) help. I ask only HIM for support, for HE is the worshipped LORD, THE ONE of munificence and generosity, THE ONE of great mercy, THE ONE of great superiority and benevolence. THE ONE whose mercy encompasses everything and whose bounties are more than sufficient for the whole of creation.

ALLAH (subhanahu wa taala) started surah fatiha with this ayah and every other surah of the Quran – apart from surah tawbah – to guide the believers towards starting all their speech and their actions with Bismi Al-Lahi Ar-Raĥmāni Ar-Raĥīmi.

They should do that in order to receive ALLAH’s support and the success given by HIM. This is contrary to the idol-worshippers who start their actions with the names of their gods and false deities so they say: ‘In the name of Laat, in the name of Uzza. in the name of shab OR in the name of hubal.’

(Laat, Uzza, Shab and Hubal are all names of some of the gods that the Makkans used to worship before the prophet Muhammad (salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam) came)

At-Tabari said:
[Surely ALLAH, whose mention is most high and whose names are most holy, educated HIS prophet Muhammad (salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam) by teaching him the mention of HIS (ALLAH) beautiful names before all his (the prophet Muhammad salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam) actions. HE made that a method for all his creation to adopt and a way for them all to follow. So when a person says: ‘Bismi Al-Lahi Ar-Raĥmāni Ar-Raĥīmi’ when he starts reciting a surah it is an indication that what he means is: ‘I read in the name of ALLAH’ and likewise all other actions]

(Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari (أبو جعفر محمد بن جرير الطبري) was one of the earliest, most prominent and famous scholars of Islam and he wrote a famous book on tafseer called ‘Tafsir ut-Tabari’)

Thus, if a person says: ‘Bismi Al-Lahi Ar-Raĥmāni Ar-Raĥīmi’ before he eats what he means is: ‘I eat in the name of ALLAH.’

2. Tafseer of the Tawwudh
أَعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ

A`ūdhu Billāhi Mina Ash-shaytāni Ar-Rajīmi

I seek refuge in ALLAH from the accursed satan

This line can be called تَعَوُّذ (t`awwudh) or اِسْتِعَاذَة(‘istiādhah)

It means I seek protection from ALLAH and I ask HIM to guard me from the evil of the haughty and disobedient Shaytan. I ask ALLAH to protect me from his harming me in my religion and my worldly life. I ask ALLAH to protect me from him when he tries to prevent me from doing that which I have been commanded with.

I seek the security of the ALL-HEARING ALL-KNOWING CREATOR from the Shaytan’s whisperings because only ALLAH the LORD of the universes can keep the Shaytan away from the human being.

Related Narrations:
It is narrated from the prophet (SAW) that when he used to stand up (to pray) at night, he started his salat with takbeer (ALLAHu Akbar) and then said:

’أَعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ وَمِنْ هُمَزِهِ وَنَفْخِهِ وَنفْثِهِ‘

‘I seek refuge in ALLAH from the accursed Shaytan and from his innuendos, breaths (whispers) and misleading insinuations.’

Extra Points on the Tafseer of Tawwudh
Point 1
It makes logical sense that when seeking protection, a person must know 2 particulars:
1) The object they are asking for protection against
2) They must recognise that object to be evil and ugly.

Point 2
It follows that the protection asked for, is against things that are forbidden and those can be of two kinds:

1) Those related to belief
2) Those related to actions

Forbidden Beliefs
If we start talking about those matters which are forbidden in relation to belief, then there are a lot of them.

The prophet (SAW) said in a famous hadith: {My ummah will divide into 73 divisions; all of them are in hell except one}

This shows that 72 of them have incorrect beliefs and methods and each one of them is not incorrect in one issue only but one of them may be incorrect in many issues.

It could be something related to ALLAH’s being, HIS attributes, HIS commands, HIS names or it could be an issue related to destiny, leadership etc.

Therefore, if we listed all the different issues in which each of the 72 sects could be incorrect we would reach a huge number of forbidden and incorrect beliefs. These would only be the errors related to the ummah of the prophet Muhammad (SAW). If we then add to that number the errors and mistakes of those that are not included in the ummah we would reach a huge number and it is obvious that when we seek protection from ALLAH against all forbidden things we are including all these different types of issues.

Forbidden Actions
The second type of forbidden things are those related to actions and include
anything that has been forbidden by
1) Quran,
2) Authentic ahadith related by many different chains of people
3) singular ahadith
4) scholars agreeing on its being forbidden after discussion and research
5) Correct comparisons with past circumstances and issues (eg. Comparing new illegal drugs with alcohol which was present in the prophet(SAW)’s time)

The number of these forbidden actions also reaches thousands.

This shows that when we sayأَعُوذُ بِالله ِ we are asking ALLAH to guard us against tens of thousands of forbidden issues or more than that. Or we could be seeking protection against fewer issues than that; those issues that are significant and recognised.

Point 3
A subtle point that can be noticed is that saying أَعُوذُ بِاللهِ shows a rejection of all that is not desired of beliefs and actions and saying بِسْمِ اللهِ (In the name of ALLAH) points towards all that is desired of beliefs and actions, because saying بِسْمِ اللهِ is only learnt after recognising all the correct beliefs and actions.

Therefore, the saying of the two is a sort of affirmation of belief.

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Jazaakumullaahu khayraan

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