Who is the Companion known as "the Translator of the Quran"?

The Details of the Question

Who is the Companion known as "the Translator of the Quran"?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Companion known as "the Translator of the Quran" is Abdullah b. Abbas.

Hz. Abdullah is the son of Abbas, who is the paternal uncle of Hz. Muhammad. It is not known when exactly he was born but it is known that he was born about three years before the Migration when the Muslims were under economic and social siege and pressure at Shi’b Abi Talib in Makkah. His mother is Ummul-Fadl Lubaba bint al-Harith. She is the sister of Maymuna, one of the wives of the Prophet. Ummul-Fadl is among the women who became Muslims after Hz. Khadijah.

His father, Hz. Abbas, took Abdullah to the Prophet (pbuh) as soon as he was born and the Messenger of Allah prayed for him as follows by holding him in his arms:  "O Allah! Made him a faqih in religion. Teach him the explanation of the book." Abdullah received full Islamic education and training in the community of Madinah, in which Islam spread and became dominant. He learned how to make wudu and perform prayers from the Prophet himself. When he was young, the Prophet caressed his head and prayed for him as follows a few times: "O Allah! Give this head all knowledge and wisdom; teach him interpretation and explanation. Collect all knowledge and wisdom that You gave to humanity in his heart." (Bukhari, Wudu, 10; Muslim, Fadailus-Sahaba, 138). Abdullah remained with the Messenger of Allah all the time and learned from him.

Hz. Abdullah stayed in Makkah with his family until the eighth year of the Migration. He was together with the Messenger of Allah on the day of the Conquest of Makkah, at the battles of Hunayn and Taif and in Farewell Hajj. After the conquest of Makkah, he migrated to Madinah with his family. He joined the religious talks given by Hz. Abu Bakr, the first caliph, and Hz. Umar after him. He was loyal to Hz. Uthman, the third caliph, and was educated by many Companions. He took part in the Expedition of Africa with Abdullah Ibn Abi Sarh and then in the conquest of Tabaristan in the east. He was the leader of Hajj in 35 H. Before the martyrdom of Hz. Uthman, he was together with the children of the great Companions who kept guard around his house and tried to protect the Caliph against the rebels. Afterwards, he held important positions in the state during the caliphate of Hz. Ali. Ibn Abbas, who supported Hz. Ali in the battles of Jamal and Siffin, represented Hz. Ali together with Abu Musa al-Ash'ari in the Incident of Hakam (Arbitration).  Hz. Ali appointed him as an envoy a few times; he was the governor of Basra during the Incident of Hakam. He suppressed the revolt of the Kharijite who rebelled in the region meanwhile and kept the peace. He could not put up with the aspersions cast on him during his governorship in Basra and resigned. He returned to Makkah and became engaged with religious sciences there until he died.

After the death of Hz. Muawiya, he was invited to Kufa by the followers of Hz. Ali and his son Hz. Husayn, he did not go there and he warned Hz. Husayn not to go there; he tried to stop Hz. Husayn but could not dissuade him. Abdullah b. Abbas became very sorry and lost his eyesight when Hz. Husayn set off for Kufa and was martyred in Karbala. He died in Taif in 68/687, when he was seventy years old.

Abdullah Ibn Abbas is known for his knowledge and strong personality rather than his political activities in the history of Islam. In the Era of Bliss, he could enter the house of the Messenger of Allah, especially the room of Hz. Maymuna, who was his maternal aunt, easily since he was very young; and he learned many issues that the other Companions did not know before them. Therefore, he is known with his deep knowledge in hadith, tafsir and fiqh. Along with the Quran, tafsir and fiqh, he had a good command in Arab literature. Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud states the following for him: "He is the translator of the Quran and sultan of tafsir scholars." Due to his vast knowledge, he was given nicknames like "the scholar of the ummah and sea of knowledge". It is stated in a hadith reported by Ahmad b. Hanbal that the Prophet (pbuh) praised the knowledge of Hz. Abbas.

When Abdullah Ibn Umar was asked something and he did not know the answer, he told the people to ask Ibn Abbas about it and to inform him about the answer after that. He always appreciated Ibn Abbas due to the answers he gave.

Due to his Islamic understanding and good manners, Abdullah Ibn Abbas did not speak in the meetings where older Companions were present before they expressed their views; he did not regard it appropriate to speak in their presence. Although some people did not regard his joining the meetings with older Companions as a nice attitude due to his age, Hz. Umar once summoned him and asked him about his view related to the interpretation of the chapter of an-Nasr. When those who did not regard his joining such meetings as a nice attitude due to his age did not have any idea about the interpretation of the chapter of an-Nasr, Abdullah Ibn Abbas stated that there were expressions indicating that the death of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was close and Hz. Umar approved him. Hz. Umar, who felt that Ibn Abbas hesitated to speak in the presence of the older Companions due to his young age, said to Ibn Abbas, "Your young age should not prevent you from speaking; speak and we will listen to you." Thus, Abdullah Ibn Abbas joined meetings with older Companions and the notables of them; he learned many things from them.

When Abdullah Ibn Abbas was asked questions, he would refer to the Quran first; if he could not find the answer in the Quran, he would search whether anything was reported from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) regarding the issue; then, he would view the ijtihads and explanations of Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar and act based on them; otherwise, he would settle the issue with his own ijtihad. Ibn Abbas did not bring tafsir knowledge that came from the Prophet and the Companions, and his own ijtihads together in the form of a book. The tafsir book called "Tanwirul-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas", which reached us and which is attributed to Ibn Abbas needs to be searched. Firuzabadi compiled the narrations from Abdullah Ibn Abbas related to tafsir and published them with the name mentioned above.

Ibn Abbas had a very disciplined and regular working system. He arranged his tasks in a certain plan meticulously. He acted in accordance with this plan. He gave lessons related to religious sciences to a large group of people on certain days of the week; he also made speeches related to Arabic, Arab poetry and literature.

During the caliphate of Hz. Uthman, he took part in the Expedition of Africa as the envoy of the Islamic army along with his religious studies. He took part in religious and academic discussions with Georgios, the general governor of the Byzantium in Africa, and his men. Georgios and the people around him saw his intellect, intelligence and thoughts and said, "This man is the greatest scholar of Arabs."

Along with his upper level political duties in the state like being a commander, envoy and governor, he was complimented by the Companions, Hz. Umar and Hz. Uthman due to the superiority and profoundness of his knowledge. He always showed modesty in the face of those compliments. When he was praised a lot, he would act humbly and say, "It is Allah who granted me this boon. The Messenger of Allah prayed to Allah for me and asked knowledge and wisdom for me."

In the history of Islam, the soundest narrations related to Gharibul-Quran (non-Arabic words, the words that were not heard or known by Arabs and the words taken from other languages in the Quran, which was sent down in Arabic) are based on Ibn Abbas. The first person who dealt with the issue of Mushkilul-Quran (going deep in the Quran, finding, settling and eliminating difficulties) was Ibn Abbas. He narrated 1660 hadiths from the Prophet (pbuh). He is one of the people that formed the basis of the science of fiqh; his fatwas filling volumes of books are the soundest foundations of the science of fiqh.

Many fiqh scholars that were raised in Makkah were raised by him. Therefore, it is said that the founder of "Makkah Tafsir School Mektebi" is Ibn Abbas.

Abu Salih from Tabiun said, "The whole Quraysh can be proud of the knowledge circle of Ibn Abbas." It is accepted that satisfactory answers were given related to the issues like tafsir, hadith, fiqh, language, poetry, literature and teaching in his lessons. His fame reached outside his country even when he was alive.

Many scholars learned ilm from Ibn Abbas and narrated hadiths from him: His own sons, Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, Ali Ibn Abdullah, his nephew, Abdullah Ibn Ubaydullah and Abdullah Ibn Ma'bad, Abdullah Ibn Umar, Sha'ba Ibn Hakam, Marwad Ibn Mahrama, Abut Tufayl, Abu Imama Ibn Sahl, Said Ibn al-Musayyab. He himself narrated hadiths from the Prophet, Hz. Abbas, his mother Lubaba, Hz. Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Abdurrahman Ibn Awf, Muadh Ibn Jabal and Abu Dharr al-Ghifari by hearing from them in person. His narrations are included in Kutub as-Sittah.

Some hadiths that Abdullah Ibn Abbas narrated:

"Respect shown to the Quran is realized through saying bismillah; the key to the Quran is bismillah."

"Teach; give good news; do not make things difficult."

"Love Allah for the countless boons He has given you. Love me because you love Allah."

"If two classes from my ummah are decent, all people will be decent. If they degenerate, people will degenerate. Those two classes are administrators and scholars."

"He who interprets the Quran based on his own desire should prepare for his place in Hell."

"If a person continues to repent and ask for forgiveness, Allah will give him salvation from troubles and ease from difficulties; He will give him sustenance from an unexpected place."

"Bad character will harm deeds just as vinegar harms honey."

"Keep silent when you are angry."

"Hearing is not like seeing."

"Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your riches before your poverty, your free time before your work, and your life before your death."

"Allah will not accept any worship of a bid’ah owner unless he gives up bid’ahs."

"If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would want to have two valleys. Nothing fills his mouth but the dust of the grave. However, Allah will accept whoever repents to him."

"The state of a dead person in the grave is like that of a person who has fallen into the sea and shouts ‘Help’. He who is about to drown waits for someone to save him; similarly, a dead person waits for a prayer from his father, mother, brother and friend. When he receives a prayer, he becomes happy as if the whole world has been given to him. Allah sends mercy like mountains to the dead due to the prayers of the living people. The gift of the living people to the dead is to pray and to ask for forgiveness for them."

Abdullah Ibn Abbas states the following:

"If a person who reads the Quran mispronounces some words, the angel will record it in the way they were sent down."

"Let the first word of your children be "La ilaha illallah". Suggest saying "La ilaha illallah" when they are at deathbed. Thus, even if he lives for one hundred years, Allah will not ask him about his sins."

"Every building has a foundation. The foundation of the building of Islam is high ethics."

"Night and day are two mounts. Ride them as means of taking you to the hereafter. Never delay repenting."

"Giving sadaqah secretly extinguishes the wrath of Lord. Visiting relatives lengthens one’s lifespan. The word "La ilaha illallah" expels ninety-nine troubles, the smallest of which is sorrow.

"A nice word a person says to his brother is a sadaqah. The help of a person to his brother is a sadaqah. The water he gives him to drink is a sadaqah. Removing something that disturbs people on the way is a sadaqah."

"High ethics melts sins just like water melts ice."

"Alcohol causes all evils. It is the biggest sin."

"If the skin of a person shivers due to the fear of Allah and gets goose bumps, his sins fall off just like the dry leaves of a tree fall off."

"When you see gardens of Paradise, benefit from them. They said, "O Messenger of Allah! What are gardens of Paradise?" He said, "Meetings of ilm."

"When a person tells you what is right accept it whether it comes from a young or old person or even a person you do not like. Reject what is wrong whether it comes from a young or old person or even a person you like."

"When Allah likes a slave, He makes him work in the mosque. If He does not like a slave, He makes him work in the public bath."

"Allah rendered zakah fard to beautify and purify the remaining part of your wealth. He left inheritance to those coming after you."

"I will tell you something: the best treasure is a righteous woman. When her husband looks at her face, he becomes happy. When he orders her something, she fulfills it; she protects his honor and wealth in his absence."

"Expressions have words like magic. Poems have wisdom."

"Dua (supplication) is the key to mercy. Wudu is the key to prayer. Prayer is the key to Paradise."

"Allah created belief within tolerance and modesty. He created unbelief within stinginess and deeds."

"He who is full and whose neighbor is hungry is not a believer."

"Sitting with scholars is regarded like worship."

"If a person transmits a hadith for the fulfillment of a sunnah or the elimination of a bid’ah, his place is Paradise."

"If a person looks at the writing of his brother without his permission, it is as if he falls into fire."

"Do not tell all hadiths to everybody. Tell them to those who will understand them."

Yunus Emre Özulu, Şamil İslam Ansiklopedisi: 1/9-11.

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