Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
I heard that the Qur’anic ayah (verse), “And [by] ten nights.” (Al-Fajr, 02) intends the ten nights of the month Muharram, and not the the ten nights of Dhu-l-Hijjah. Supposedly, this was Mujahid ibn Jabr’s opinion and also Muqatil ibn Sulayman’s opinion.
But then, because Shi’as “adopted” the month Muharram, Sunni scholars said that, by ten nights, it means the ten nights of Dhu-l-Hijjah.
Is this true?
Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Jazakum Allah khayran for your question.
There is a difference of opinion among the scholars of Quranic exegesis on what days the verse ‘وليال عشر’ ‘And [by] ten nights’ [89:2] refers to. The reliable opinion is that it refers to the first 10 days of Dhul Hijja.
In almost all classical texts, three to four opinions are transmitted:
1. It refers to the first 10 days of Dhul Hijja: This is the soundest opinion and supported by the majority of tafsir scholars, and was related from Ibn Abbas
2. It refers to the last 10 days of Ramadan: This is also narrated from Ibn Abbas.
3. It refers to the first 10 days of Muharram: This opinion was held by some scholars.
4. It refers to the ten nights appointed to Sayyidna Musa (peace be upon him): This refers to the words of Allah Most High, ‘We appointed for Moses thirty nights then added another ten—completing his Lord’s term of forty nights. [7:142]. This was related from Masruq.
The Tafsir of Mujahid makes no mention of the opinions. Even if we refer to the ‘tafsir’ of Muqatil bin Sulayman, it explains that the ten days as the days preceding Eid al Adha, meaning the 10 days of Dhul Hijja.
The claim that because Shi’as ‘adopted’ the month of Muharram, the Mufassiruns of the Ahlus-Sunnah said that, by ten nights, it means the ten nights of Dhu-l-Hijjah’ is unfounded.
Classic Quranic exegesis is a rigorous science undertaken by scholars of the highest calibre and God-fearingness because they are explaining the words of God, the final revelation to mankind. Each verse of the Qur’an was revealed in a certain context, with certain meanings and purpose, and they were all revealed during the time of the Prophet ﷺ. The qualified scholars among the early generations, such as Ibn Abbas and Mujahid, only ever explained the Qur’an from a deep understanding of these contexts and meanings.
Later events, schisms, and politics have nothing to do with the explanation of the words of God revealed to His Prophet ﷺ, and its meanings are never open to change due to such factors. To alter one’s opinion on the meaning of a verse of the Qur’an due to sectarian animosity is a betrayal of one’s own knowledge, and a betrayal to the ummah of Sayyidna Muhammad ﷺ. The Sunni scholars of classical exegesis were far beyond this.
[Tafsirs: al Qurtabi, al Baydawi, al Kabir, al Qushayri, al Sam’ani, Mujahid, Muqatil, al Sawi, Safwatul Tafasir]
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.