What is the tafsir (interpretation) of Surah At-Tin?

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SHAFAQNA- I was pondering on Surah Wat-Tin and want to know what do we make out with the swears of Allah. What does what does “Wat-Tin”ِ represent? Is it because of fruit’s ingredients, or it is a symbol of the Prophet of that area that it is grown or the land where it is grown? Is there any other interpretation? Similarly what does Waz-Zaytoon represent? And what does the next verse “wa tur-e senin” symbolize? Then we have وَهَـٰذَا ٱلۡبَلَدِ ٱلۡأَمِینِ what does it symbolize? What is the connection between these swears of Allah and Insan (man)? Do they have any link to Imam Zamana and his Zahoor? Can we say that probably وَهَـٰذَا ٱلۡبَلَدِ ٱلۡأَمِینِ can mean that it is the city where Imam Zamana will reappear. Or is there any other tafseer of this surah? What lessons can we draw from this sura for ourselves? Please reply at the earliest. Wassalam,

Concise answer
In Sura At-Tin, God swears by four things whereupon He says that He created man in the best mould or stature. However, the same man [insane] who enjoys all the blessings and capacities is reduced to the lowest of the low. The only way out for him is to believe and do good. This is the focal point and the main message of the Sura which is truly worthy of God’s swearing.
Detailed Answer
Surah At-Tin is one of the Meccan Surahs[1] comprising eight verses. This is one of the Surahs in which God, the Almighty, swears by many things and then a number of important points have been referred to. We shall now explain the points together with the literal meanings of the words and shall also interpret the verses in the Surah:
1. I swear by the fig and the olive, and mount Sinai[2], and this City of security. The word ‘Tin’ in the Arabic version of the verse, means ‘fig’[3] and the word ‘Zaytoon’ means ‘olive’ which is a small oval fruit with a hard pit and bitter flesh, green when unripe and brownish black when ripe. However the exegetes of the Holy Quran have varying views about whether the above meanings are really intended or perhaps the words may refer to something beyond the apparent meanings. In addition, there is also an esoteric interpretation of this verse which is evidence and affirmed by a narration. However, the authority of esoteric meaning is not in any way in contrast with the authority of the literal (exoteric) meaning of the verse.[4]
2. “We have indeed created man in the best of moulds.”[5] This verse and the following verses are a response to the swearing.[6] That is to say, God swore by the fig and olive to say that He indeed created man in the best of moulds.  Certainly, there is no creation or being to be better than man according to a divine perspective. God created man alive, knowledgeable, powerful, volitional, talking, hearing, seeing, wise etc. These are the attributes which He Himself bestowed man.[7]
When it comes to the meaning of «أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِیم»  (in the best of moulds), exegetes have offered different meanings which will be classed under two categories:
a) Most of the exegetes are of the view that the terms «أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِیم» mean the apparent creation and make, in which case it means that God created man in the best form and shape in terms of the external or apparent mould. That is to say, the hands, face, feet and other parts of human body were created in a beautiful, orderly and unified fashion.[8] There is no doubt that as to this kind of interpretation, some interpreters and commentators of the Quran have said that upright stature of man (walking on two feet) is the meaning to which the terms “the best of moulds” refer.[9]
b) In addition to the above notion, it has also been considered probable by the exegetes that the terms “the best of moulds” might mean something beyond the material creation. In fact, there are different explanations when it comes to the particular meaning of the creation intended by the verse. For instance, one of the exegetes is of the opinion that there is a connection between man’s God-gifted nature and the “best of moulds”:
“Surely, man has been created with a human nature. God placed it in man so that its various effects should also form and emerge in him. To understand the nature is to conceive something beyond the five senses. That is to say, it is in conformity with the reality of immutable and static things in “nafsulamr” (the term nafsulamr literally means “the reality”).[10] As well, other meanings have been mentioned for the above verse which include intelligence, understanding, grammar and eloquence etc. as part of the manifestations of the “best of moulds”.[11]
3. Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low, except those who believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing.[12] The meaning of this verse (see the Arabic version of the verse in the endnote) has something to do with the preceding verse. Whatever meaning we accept for the preceding verse, we should, based on that meaning, interpret this verse in the same line and in conformity with the same meaning.[13]  However, it seems that in view of the several things by which Allah has sworn in the beginning of the surah as well as the existing explanations concerning this verse, we must consider the meaning of the “best moulds” to be something beyond material creation, something which is of high value and great content. Of course, most of those who advocate the first interpretation, have not taken the “lowest of the low” (asfalus-saafileen) for old-age (which is coherent with the preceding verse. Rather they have interpreted in a such a manner that it consistent with the following meaning: “The very human being who if, despite all privileges bestowed upon, deviates for the right path, he will fall down to the lowest of the low.”[14] It has also been stated in other verses that owing to his deeds, man sometimes becomes worse the beasts.[15]

[1] Mughniyah, Muhammad Jawad, Al-Tafsir al-Mubin, p. 813, Be’athat Foundation, Qom (without date).
[3] Mustafavi, Hasan, Al-Tahqiq fi Kalimat al-Quran al-Karim, vol.1, p. 404, Book translation and publication Center, Tehran, 1360 (1981); Fiumi, Ahmad bin Muhammad, Al-Misbah al-Minbar, vol.2, p. 79, Dar al-Razi Publications, Qom, first edition, (no date found).
[4] For further information, vide: Imam Hasan and Hussein (A.S), the Manifestations of Surah At-Tin, 20276.
[5]  At-Tin, verse 4. «لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسانَ فِی أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِیمٍ»
[6] Tabatabai, Sayed Muhammad Hussein, Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol.20, p. 319, Islamic Propagations Office, Qom, fifth edition, 1417 A.H; Ibn  Jawzi, Abdur Rahman bin Ali, Zaad al-Masir fi Ilm al-Tafsir, researched by Al-Mahdi, Abdu Razaq, vol.4, p. 464, Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, Beirut, first edition 1412 A.H.
[7] Ibn Al-Arabi, Muhammad bin Abdullah b. Abu Bakr, Ahkaam al-Quran, vol.4, p. 1952.
[8] Zamakhshari, Mahmood, Al-Kashaf ‘An Haqaeq Ghawamiz al-Tanzil, vol.4, p. 774, Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, Beirut, third edition, 1407 A.H; Tha’labi, Nishaburi, Ahmad b. Ibrahim, Al-Kashf wa al-Bayan ‘An Tafsir al-Quran, vol.10, p.2240, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, first edition, 1422 A.H; Tabarsi, Fazl bin Hasan, Majma’ul Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran, Introduction by Balaghi, Muhammad Jawad, vol.10, p. 775, Nasir Khosrou Publications, Tehran, third edition, 1372 (1993); Shubbar, Sayyid Abdullah Tafsir al-Quran al-Karim, p. 561, Dar al-Balaghah Lil-Teba’ah wa al-Nashr, Beirut, frist edition, 1412 A.H.
[9] Balkhi, Maqatil bin Sulayman, Tafsir Maqatil bin Sulayman, researched by Shahhatah, Abdullah Mahmood, vol.4, p. 751, vol.4, p. 751, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, first edition, 1423 A.H.; Baydhawi, Abdullah b. Umar, Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta’wil, researched by Al-Mar’ashi, Muhammad Abdur Rahman, vol.5, p. 323, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, first edition, 1418 A.H.
[10] Ibn Ashur, Muhammad bin Taher, al-Tahrir wa al-Tanvir, vol.30, p. 375 (date and place of publication missing).
[11] Fakhr al-Din Razi, Muhammad b. Umar, Mafatih al-Ghayb, vol.32, p. 212, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, third edition, 1420 A.H.; Tabarsi, Fazl b. Hasan, Tafsir Jawami’ al-Jami’, vol.4, p. 510, Tehrani University Press, the Islamic Seminary of Qom Administrative Branch, first edition, 1377 (1998).
[12] «ثُمَّ رَدَدْناهُ أَسْفَلَ سافِلینَ. إِلاَّ الَّذینَ آمَنُوا وَ عَمِلُوا الصَّالِحاتِ فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَیْرُ مَمْنُونٍ» At-Tin 5 – 6.
[13] For instance, vide: Samarqandi, Nasrin Muhammad b. Ahmad, Bahrul Ulum, researched and edited, Al-Umrawi, Muhibbuddin Abu Sa’eid Umar b. Gharamah, vol.3, p. 595, Dar al-Fikr, Beirut, 1416 A.H.
[14]  Makarem Shirazi, Naser, Tafsir Nomouneh, vol.27, p. 144, Dar al-Kitab al-Islamiyah, Tehran, first edition, 1374 A.H.
[15] Vide: What is meant by “Best of Moulds” and “Llike cattle or even more, straying and confused”; 8000

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