When Ibn ‘Aashoor (d. 1973/1393) wrote his tafseer on the Qur’an, which he called Tafsir al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir, he followed a number of basic principles in his methodology, particularly when it came to the linguistic exegesis, with which his tafseer is replete. These principles are generally based on the semantic connotations of individual words, and how these meanings relate to the context in which they are found.
This linguistic analysis is perhaps the most outstanding feature of this tafseer, and this is due to the high regard in which Ibn ‘Ashoor regarded such analysis. He himself commented in the begining of this work,
“With regards the Arabic language, then the purpose of it is to understand the intents of the Arabs in the speech and literature of their language…the Qur’an is in Arabic, and thus the rules of Arabic [grammar] are a means by which to understand the meanings of the Qur’an. Without [knowledge of] these rules, the reader will fall into error and incorrect understanding…”
This tafseer is truly distinguished from other tafseers by Ibn ‘Ashoor’s precise linguistic analysis, in the way he shows the meaning of the Qur’anic words and their semantic connotations, and the way in which they are used in their context.
As an example of this analysis, Ibn ‘Ashoor explained the difference between the words al-‘Adaawah العداوة and al-Baghdaa’ البغضاء that appear in the verse, (al-Ma’idah, verse 14),
وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ إِنَّا نَصَارَى أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَهُمْ فَنَسُواْ حَظّاً مِّمَّا ذُكِّرُواْ بِهِ فَأَغْرَيْنَا بَيْنَهُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاء إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ وَسَوْفَ يُنَبِّئُهُمُ اللّهُ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَصْنَعُونَ
And from those who say, “We are Christians” We took their covenant; but they forgot a portion of that of which they were reminded. So We caused among them al-‘Adaawah (translated as ‘animosity’) and al-Baghdaa’ (translated as ‘hatred’) until the Day of Resurrection. And Allah is going to inform them about what they used to do.
He mentioned that other linguists and exegetes (mufassiroon) failed to mention the difference between these two words, except for two: Ibn ‘Arafah al-Toonisee, and Abu al-Baqaa’ al-Kafawi (author of al-Kulliyyaat); each one’s opinion, however, contradicted the other’s.
Ibn ‘Arafah al-Toonisee held that al-‘Adaawah is more general than al-Baghdaa’, because al-‘Adaawah leads to al-Baghdaa’, for two people may ‘yata’aadaa‘ يتعادى (become enemies; from same root as ‘adaawah) with one another, but it will not lead to anything unless hatred (al-mubaaghadah; same root as al-baghdaa’) stems, then other things may occur.
Abu al-Baqaa’ al-Kafawi, on the other hand, held that al-‘Adaawah is more specific than al-Baghdaa’, because every enemy (‘aduww عدو; same root as ‘adaawah) has become an enemy due to hating (yabghud يبغض ; same root as baghdaa’) another, but one may hate someone who is not their enemy.
Ibn ‘Ashoor then stated that he believed both opinions to be unclear, and in his opinion, the meaning of al-‘adaawah and al-baghdaa’ were in opposition to one another; al-‘Adaawah is a hatred that comes from a person, who then treats the other person with aversion, or harm, or cuts off from them. This is because the word ‘adaawah stems from the word عدو (‘enemy’) which comes from the root ayn, daal, waw ع د و, and all the words of this root connote meanings of transgression and distancing one thing from another.
On the other hand, al-baghdaa’ refers to a very strong hatred and the root ب غ ض only carries the meanings of hatred, so we cannot understand the real meaning of this word simply from its root.
He then turned to al-ishtiqaaq al-kabeer to help solve the problem, and discovered that when you flip around the root ب غ ض you end up with غ ض ب, which connotes extremely strong anger. Thus, he concluded that al-baghdaa’ refers to an extremely strong form of anger that is not necessarily directed towards a single enemy, but rather it is concealed in a person’s nafs, like a psychological state of anger. Thus, Ibn ‘Ashoor stated that we cannot say that both al-‘Adaawah and al-Baghdaa’ are within a single person at one time in this verse, because one is directed towards an enemy and one is not. Rather, the verse could mean ‘We caused ‘adaawah among some of them, and baghdaa’ among others.”
And Allah knows best.