We will look at an example of how the Messenger did Tafsir (or explanation) of the Qur’anic Ayaat. Did he rely on outside explanations or did he use the Qur’an itself to do its Tafsir? We will also look at how the same Verse is “explained” by the most authentic book of Hadith compiled by Bukhari.
We will start with the following Ayah:
“O you who believe! Do not put questions about things, which if declared to you may trouble you, and if you question about them when the QUR’AN IS BEING REVEALED, they shall be declared to you; Allah pardons this, and Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing” (5:101)
We note that the questions are only allowed while the Qur’an is being revealed. This is further evidence that the revelation that the Prophet was receiving was nothing besides the Qur’an; otherwise, Allah could have the Prophet answer these questions through “other” revelations.
The Prophet did not die right after the instance of delivering the last verses of the Qur’an. But the above Ayah forbade the questions after the completion of the Qur’an. This is consistent with the Qur’anic message. Allah tells us that one of the reasons why the Qur’an was being revealed to the Prophet in stages was to provide explanations (Tafsir) and answers to the questions of other people:
“The rejecters say: ‘Why is not the Qur’an revealed to him all at once? Thus (it is revealed gradually) that We may strengthen your heart thereby and We have rehearsed it to you in slow well-arranged stages gradually. And no example do they bring to you but We bring to you the truth and the best explanation (ahsan al Tafsir)”(25:32-33)
Here we see three main reasons why Allah sent the Messenger and why He revealed the Qur’an in stages: 1. To strengthen the Messenger so that he feels that he is in constant contact with Allah. 2. To provide the Messenger with the truth whenever people bring him other examples. 3. To provide the “best explanations”
Thus it is the Qur’anic verses that provide the “best explanations”. These verses also show us why the Messenger’s role is an important one. First, he is the agency through which Allah communicates with the human beings.
Had Allah dumped the whole Qur’an in a cave somewhere, no one would ever know about it. In addition, the person of the Messenger and the gradual revelation of the Qur'an also make it more relevant to the people.
As Allah says that the Qur’anic verses are revealed to the Messenger to bring him the truth (about a situation) and to provide him with the best explanations.
But some people insist that the books of Hadith contain explanations of the Qur’anic Ayaat. Let us look at an example. Through this example we will see that this claim is absurd and contradicts the Qur’an. Allah tells the Prophet:
“We relate to you (Mohammed) the most beautiful of stories, in that We reveal to you this Qur’an. Before this, you too were among those who were unaware of it.” (Qur’an 12:3) “There is, in their stories (all the Messenger’s stories mentioned in the Qur’an), instruction for people of understanding. It is not a Hadith invented. But a confirmation of what went before it – a detailed exposition of all things, and a Guide and a Mercy to any such as believe” (12:111)
These Ayaat confirm that the Prophet’s knowledge about past events and past Messengers came only through the Qur’an. It is also not logical to assume that the Messenger of Allah would present other stories based on hearsay rather than the “best explanation”.
Yet, the books of Hadith attach stories with the name of the Prophet that have no basis in the Qur’an, but they claim to “explain” the Qur’an. Look at the following example. Allah revealed: "O you who believe! Be not like those who annoyed Moses, but Allah cleared him of what they said, and he was worthy of regard with Allah." (33:69) Now if someone asks the question as to “how these people annoyed Moses”, then according to 25:32-33 and 12:3, 111 above, the Messenger would receive revelations to explain this with the “Ahsan al-Tafsir”.
But contrary to that, the books of Hadith attach a story, which besides being unreasonable and absurd, also has no basis in the Qur’an: “It has been narrated to me by Ishaq bin Ibraheem, as Ruh bin Ubadah told us, from Auf who was informed by Al Hasan, Muhammad and Khilas, that he narrated from Abu Hurraira who said that, Allah's Apostle said, "(The Prophet) Moses was a shy person and used to cover his body completely because of his extensive shyness. One of the children of Israel hurt him by saying, 'He covers his body in this way only because of some defect in his skin, either leprosy or scrotal hernia, or he has some other defect.' Allah wished to clear Moses of what they said about him, so one day while Moses was in seclusion, he took off his clothes and put them on a stone and started taking a bath. When he had finished the bath, he moved towards his clothes so as to take them, but the stone took his clothes and fled; Moses picked up his stick and ran after the stone saying, 'O stone! Give me my garment!' Till he reached a group of Bani Israel who saw him naked then, and found him the best of what Allah had created, and Allah cleared him of what they had accused him of. The stone stopped there and Moses took and put his garment on and started hitting the stone with his stick. By Allah, the stone still has some traces of the hitting, three, four or five marks. This was what Allah refers to in His Saying: "O you who believe! Be you not like those Who annoyed Moses, But Allah proved his innocence of that which they alleged, And he was honorable In Allah's Sight.” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 4 Hadith 616)
This is contrary to what Allah says in 25:32-33 and 12:3, 111. According to these Ayaat, the explanation must have come from the Qur’an. And it indeed did come from the Qur’an; the above story is someone’s fancywork, which he deemed suitable to attach to the name of the Prophet to give it more significance. Here is the “Ahsan al-Tafsir” of 33:69:
After Moses delivered the people of Israel from the Pharaoh, they said to him: “They said: 'We have had (nothing but) trouble both before and after you came to us.”(7:129)
When Allah gave them heavenly food they said: “O Moses! We cannot endure one kind of food (always)..”(2:61)
When passing through a valley, these people saw some people worshiping idols. Knowing fully well that Moses was dedicated to the worship of Allah alone they asked him: “... O Moses! Make for us a god as they have (their) gods He said: Surely you are a people acting ignorantly.” (7:138)
Moses had shown them so many signs of Allah, but they said to him: “O Moses! We will not believe in you until we see Allah manifestly...” (2:55)
When Moses called them for war, they said: “...go therefore you and your Sustainer, then fight you both surely we will here sit down.” (5:24)
Also read the story in (2:67-71) where Allah asked them to sacrifice a cow, but they kept coming back to Moses with irrelevant questions.
It was because of this behavior that Moses was annoyed: “And when Moses said to his people: O my people! Why do you annoy me? And you know indeed that I am Allah's messenger to you…”(61:5)
This is how the Messenger gave “Clarity” to the Qur’anic Ayaat – by using other Ayaat to give Tafsir. Anyone with a sane mind can see that the explanation or Tafsir given by the Qur’an to 33:69 is CLEAR and consistent with Allah’s Sunnah on how He deals with his beloved Messengers and servant.
The story in Bukhari is nothing but a fabrication and an insult to Allah’s dealing with His beloved Messenger Moses. Thus, the argument that Hadith shed light on the Qur’an is a baseless argument. The Qur’an provides ample evidence that it is Allah who sheds light on the Qur’anic Verses by other Qur’anic Verses.