Had Allah willed to take a son…: Tafsir al-Sa’di and Tafsir ibn Kathir

𝐇𝐚𝐝 𝐀𝐥𝐥𝐚𝐡 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐚 𝐬𝐨𝐧…: 𝐓𝐚𝐟𝐬𝐢𝐫 𝐚𝐥-𝐒𝐚’𝐝𝐢 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐓𝐚𝐟𝐬𝐢𝐫 𝐢𝐛𝐧 𝐊𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐫

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


Allah سبحانه وتعالى says in surah al-Zumar:

لَّوْ أَرَ‌ادَ اللَّـهُ أَن يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا لَّاصْطَفَىٰ مِمَّا يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ ۖ هُوَ اللَّـهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ‌

Had Allah willed to take a son, He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He created. Exalted is He! He is Allah, the One, the Subduer. [39:4]

Imam al-Sa’di, in his book of tafsir, writes:

أي‏:‏ ‏{‏لَوْ أَرَادَ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا‏}‏ كما زعم ذلك من زعمه، من سفهاء الخلق‏.‏ ‏{‏لَاصْطَفَى مِمَّا يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ‏}‏ أي‏:‏ لاصطفى بعض مخلوقاته التي يشاء اصطفاءه، واختصه لنفسه، وجعله بمنزلة الولد، ولم يكن حاجة إلى اتخاذ الصاحبة‏.‏

Had Allah willed to take a son” as is the assertion of those who assert this from the fools of creation. “He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He created” – meaning He could have chosen whomever of His creatures which He willed to choose, and singled it out for Himself, and made it in the likeness of a son, and He did not need to take a consort.

‏{‏سُبْحَانَهُ‏}‏ عما ظنه به الكافرون، أو نسبه إليه الملحدون‏.‏

Exalted is He!” above what the kaafireen think of Him, or what the heretics attribute to Him.

‏{‏هُوَ اللَّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ‏}‏ أي‏:‏ الواحد في ذاته، وفي أسمائه، وفي صفاته، وفي أفعاله، فلا شبيه له في شيء من ذلك، ولا مماثل، فلو كان له ولد، لاقتضى أن يكون شبيها له في وحدته، لأنه بعضه، وجزء منه‏.‏

He is Allah, the One, the Subduer” – meaning: al-Waahid (the One) in His essence, His names, His attributes, and His actions. So nothing resembles Him at all in any of those things, and there is no likeness to Him. So if there was a son for Him, then it would necessarily have to resemble Him in His Oneness, because that is part and parcel of Him.

القهار لجميع العالم العلوي والسفلي، فلو كان له ولد لم يكن مقهورا، ولكان له إدلال على أبيه ومناسبة منه‏.‏

The Subduer (Al-Qahhaar) over all the world, from top to bottom. So if there were a son for Him, the son could not subdued, and he would have some importance in relationship to his father.

ووحدته تعالى وقهره متلازمان، فالواحد لا يكون إلا قهارا، والقهار لا يكون إلا واحدا، وذلك ينفي الشركة له من كل وجه‏.‏

And His Oneness and His Irresistible Power go hand in hand, for He cannot truly be al-Waahid unless He is a irresistibly powerful, and He cannot truly be al-Qahhaar unless He is singular, and this negates the idea of partnership with Him from every angle.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman, p. 719]

Imam ibn Kathir also addresses this ayah in his tafsir where he writes:

ثم بين تعالى أنه لا ولد له كما يزعمه جهلة المشركين في الملائكة، والمعاندون من اليهود والنصارى في العزير، وعيسى فقال: {لَوْ أَرَادَ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا لاصْطَفَى مِمَّا يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ} أي: لكان الأمر على خلاف ما يزعمون. وهذا شرط لا يلزم وقوعه ولا جوازه، بل هو محال، وإنما قصد تجهيلهم فيما ادعوه وزعموه، كما قال: {لَوْ أَرَدْنَا أَنْ نَتَّخِذَ لَهْوًا لاتَّخَذْنَاهُ مِنْ لَدُنَّا إِنْ كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ} [الأنبياء: 17] {قُلْ إِنْ كَانَ لِلرَّحْمَنِ وَلَدٌ فَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْعَابِدِينَ} [الزخرف: 81]، كل هذا من باب الشرط، ويجوز تعليق الشرط على المستحيل لقصد المتكلم.

Allah clarifies that He does not have a son, contrary to what the mushrikoon claim about the angels in ignorance, and what the obstinate ones from the Jews and Christians claim about ‘Uzair and ‘Eesaa (respectively). So He said, “Had Allah willed to take a son, He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He created” – meaning: However the matter is contrary to what they claim, and this hypothetical clause [that Allah has a son] is not a necessary occurrence, nor is it permissible. Rather it is impossible, and the only intent here is to demonstrate the ignorance in what they call to and assert. This is as He said, “Had We intended to take a diversion, We could have taken it from [what is] with Us – if [indeed] We were to do so”  [21:17], and “Say, “If the Most Merciful had a son, then I would be the first of [his] worshippers” [43:81], and all of this is from the category of hypothetical clauses, and it is permitted to predicate the clause on an impossibility for the sake of rhetorical argument.

وقوله: {سُبْحَانَهُ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ} أي: تعالى وتنزه وتقدس عن أن يكون له ولد، فإنه الواحد الأحد، الفرد الصمد، الذي كل شيء عبد لديه، فقير إليه، وهو الغني عما سواه الذي قد قهر الأشياء فدانت له وذلت وخضعت.

And His statement, “Exalted is He! He is Allah, the One, the Subduer” – meaning, Allah the Exalted purifies Himself from having an offspring. For He is the One, the Singular, and Unique, the One who is Perfect is all of His Attributes, to Whom everything comes to Him as a slave, in need of Him, and He is Free of Need from anything else, and He has exercised His Irresistible Power over all things.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 7/85]

See also: A response to those who say “We are the children of Allah”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: A reply to those who say, “If Allah can do anything, why can He not have a son?”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: A Principle to Dispel Specious Arguments and Doubts: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: The Messiah was only a Messenger and his mother was a ṣiddīqah: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: The story of ‘Eesaa, his mother, Zakariyyah and Yahya – Imam al-Sa’di