Imaam Sufyan ath-Thawri is a famous scholar of the Salaf, renowned mostly as a muhadith. However, his important contributions to fiqh and tafseer are often overlooked by many people. The following examples illustrate Imaam Sufyan’s profound knowledge of the Qur’an:
1. Allah (’azza wajal) says:
وَقُولُوا لِلنَّاسِ حُسْنًا
‘…And speak good to people…’ (2:83)
Imaam Sufyan said that this means: ‘Order people to do good and forbid them from doing evil.’
2. Allah (’azza wajal) said:
وَخُلِقَ الْإِنسَانُ ضَعِيفًا
‘And man was created weak.’ (4:28)
In regards to this ayah, someone asked Imaam Sufyan (rahimahullah), ‘How is man weak?’ He said, ‘A woman walks by a man, and he cannot prevent himself from looking at her, although she does not benefit him at all. What can be weaker than that?’
3. Allah (’azza wajal) says:
دَعْوَاهُمْ فِيهَا سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّهُمّ
‘Their way of request therein will be Subhanaka Allahuma (Glory to You, O Allah!)’ (10:10)
Explaining the meaning of this ayah, Imaam Sufyan said, ‘If one of the men of Paradise will want something, he will only have to call out ‘Subhanaka Allahum’ and the thing he called for will come to him.’
4. Allah (’azza wajal) said:
إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ لَهُ سُلْطَانٌ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا
“Verily! He has no power over those who believe.” (16:99)
Clarifying the meaning of this ayah, Imaam Sufyan (rahimahullah) said, ‘ (Shaitaan) has no power to make believers perform the kind of sin that Allah does not forgive.
’5. Allah (’azza wajal) said:
سُنَّةَ مَن قَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ مِن رُّسُلِنَا ۖ وَلَا تَجِدُ لِسُنَّتِنَا تَحْوِيلًا“
(This was Our) Sunnah with the Messengers We sent before you (Muhammad), and you will not find any alteration in Our Sunnah” (17:77)
Explaining ‘(This was Our) Sunnah with the Messengers We sent before you,’ Imaam Sufyan (rahimahullah) said, ‘This means: whenever We sent a Messenger before you and his people forced him to leave, they became destroyed.
’6. Allah (’azza wajal) said:
وَكَانُوا لَنَا خَاشِعِينَ
“And (they) used to humble themselves before Us.” (21:90)
Imaam Sufyan said that this means that they constantly feared him in their hearts.
7. Allah (’azza wajal) said:
يَعْلَمُ خَائِنَةَ الْأَعْيُنِ وَمَا تُخْفِي الصُّدُورُ
“Allah knows the fraud of the eyes, and all that the breasts conceal” (40:19)
Imaam Sufyan explained, ‘Seated in a gathering, a man sneaks a looks at a woman who passes by the men in the gathering. If the other men see him looking at her, he puts himself on guard against them and desists from looking. But if they are heedless of what he is doing, he looks at her (and stares) – this is the ‘fraud of the eyes’. All ‘All that the breasts conceal‘ refers to the lust he feels in his soul.
’8. Allah (’azza wajal) said:
وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنتُم
“And He is with you wheresoever you may be” (57:4)
Imaam Sufyan said, ‘(He is with you) with His Knowledge.’