Tafsir
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Tafsir ( ar, تفسير, tafsīr ) refers to
exegesis Exegesis ( ; from the Ancient Greek, Greek , from , "to lead out") is a critical explanation or interpretation (logic), interpretation of a text. The term is traditionally applied to the interpretation of Bible, Biblical works. In modern usage, ...
, usually of the
Quran The Quran (, ; Standard Arabic: , Classical Arabic, Quranic Arabic: , , 'the recitation'), also romanized Qur'an or Koran, is the central religious text of Islam, believed by Muslims to be a revelation in Islam, revelation from God in Islam, ...
. An author of a ''tafsir'' is a ' ( ar, مُفسّر; plural: ar, مفسّرون, mufassirūn). A Quranic ''tafsir'' attempts to provide elucidation, explanation, interpretation, context or commentary for clear understanding and conviction of
God In monotheistic thought, God is usually viewed as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith. Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Honderich, Ted. (ed)''The Oxford Companion to Philosophy'', Oxford University Press, 1995. God is typicall ...
's will. Principally, a ''tafsir'' deals with the issues of
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure. Linguis ...
,
jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of the propriety of law. Scholars of jurisprudence seek to explain the nature of law in its most general form and they also seek to achieve a deeper understanding of legal reasoning ...
, and
theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an Discipline (academia), academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the ...
. In terms of perspective and approach, ''tafsir'' can be broadly divided into two main categories, namely ''tafsir bi-al-ma'thur'' (lit. received tafsir), which is transmitted from the early days of Islam through the
Islamic prophet Prophets in Islam ( ar, الأنبياء في الإسلام, translit=al-ʾAnbiyāʾ fī al-ʾIslām) are individuals in Islam who are believed to spread God in Islam, God's message on Earth and to serve as models of ideal human behaviour. So ...
Muhammad Muhammad ( ar, مُحَمَّد;  570 – 8 June 632 Common Era, CE) was an Arab religious, social, and political leader and the founder of Islam. According to Muhammad in Islam, Islamic doctrine, he was a prophet Divine inspiration, di ...
and his companions, and ''tafsir bi-al-ra'y'' (lit. ''tafsir'' by opinion), which is arrived through personal reflection or independent rational thinking. There are different characteristics and traditions for each of the ''tafsirs'' representing respective schools and doctrines, such as
Sunni Islam Sunni Islam () is the largest Islamic schools and branches, branch of Islam, followed by 85–90% of the world's Muslims. Its name comes from the word ''Sunnah'', referring to the tradition of Muhammad. The differences between Sunni and Shia ...
,
Shia Islam Shīʿa Islam or Shīʿīsm is the second-largest Islamic schools and branches, branch of Islam. It holds that the Prophets and messengers in Islam, Islamic prophet Muhammad in Islam, Muhammad designated Ali, ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib as his S ...
, and
Sufism Sufism ( ar, ''aṣ-ṣūfiyya''), also known as Tasawwuf ( ''at-taṣawwuf''), is a mysticism, mystic body of religious practice, found mainly within Sunni Islam but also within Shia Islam, which is characterized by a focus on Islamic spiri ...
. There are also general distinctions between classic ''tafsirs'' compiled by authoritative figures of Muslim scholarship during the formative ages of Islam, and modern ''tafsir'' which seeks to address a wider audience, including the common people.Mir, Mustansir. (1995). "Tafsīr". In John L. Esposito. ''The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World''. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Etymology

The word ' is derived from the three-letter Arabic verbal root of '' F- S- R'' (', 'interpreted'). In its literal meaning, the word refers to interpreting, explaining, expounding, or disclosing. In Islamic contexts, it is defined as understanding and uncovering
God In monotheistic thought, God is usually viewed as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith. Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Honderich, Ted. (ed)''The Oxford Companion to Philosophy'', Oxford University Press, 1995. God is typicall ...
's will which has been conveyed by the
Quranic The Quran (, ; Standard Arabic: , Classical Arabic, Quranic Arabic: , , 'the recitation'), also romanized Qur'an or Koran, is the central religious text of Islam, believed by Muslims to be a revelation in Islam, revelation from God in Islam, ...
text, by means of the
Arabic language Arabic (, ' ; , ' or ) is a Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world The Arab world ( ar, اَلْعَالَمُ الْعَرَبِيُّ '), formally the Arab homeland ( '), also known as the Arab nation ( '), the Ara ...
and one's own knowledge.


History

The first examples of ''tafsir'' can be traced back to Muhammad. According to Islamic belief, as the Quran was revealed to him, he recited the verses to his companions, usually explaining their meanings to teach them, as it was one of Muhammad's responsibilities. Elements of Muhammad's explanations including clarifying verses whose intents are not understood, the indication of names, places, times etc. which have not been mentioned in the verse, restriction of meanings which have been given as absolute and reconciliation of expressions which seem contradictory. Although scholars including
ibn Taymiyyah Ibn Taymiyyah (January 22, 1263 – September 26, 1328; ar, ابن تيمية), birth name Taqī ad-Dīn ʾAḥmad ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm ibn ʿAbd al-Salām al-Numayrī al-Ḥarrānī ( ar, تقي الدين أحمد بن عبد الحليم ب ...
claim that Muhammad has commented on the whole of the Quran, others including Ghazali cite the limited amount of narratives (''
hadith Ḥadīth ( or ; ar, حديث, , , , , , , literally "talk" or "discourse") or Athar ( ar, أثر, , literally "remnant"/"effect") refers to what the majority of Muslims believe to be a record of the words, actions, and the silent approva ...
''), thus indicating that he has commented only on a portion of the Quran. After the death of Muhammad, his companions (''
sahabah The Companions of the Prophet ( ar, اَلصَّحَابَةُ; ''aṣ-ṣaḥāba'' meaning "the companions", from the verb meaning "accompany", "keep company with", "associate with") were the disciples and followers of Muhammad who saw or m ...
'') undertook the task of interpretation, thus starting a new age in ''tafsir''. Most of the sahabah, including
Abu Bakr Abu Bakr Abdallah ibn Uthman Abi Quhafa (; – 23 August 634) was the senior Companions of the Prophet, companion and was, through his daughter Aisha, a father-in-law of the Prophets and messengers in Islam, Islamic prophet Muhammad in Isla ...
, refrained from commenting based on their personal views, and only narrated comments by Muhammad. Others including
ibn Abbas ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbbās ( ar, عَبْد ٱللَّٰه ٱبْن عَبَّاس; c. 619 – 687 CE), also known as Ibn ʿAbbās, was one of the cousins of the Prophets and messengers in Islam, Islamic prophet Muhammad. He is considered to be t ...
used their own knowledge from the Arabic language to interpret the Quran. At this stage, ''tafsir'' was selective and concise regarding its coverage, and only certain words, phrases and verses were explained. The Quran was still not fully interpreted, and commentaries were not separated from the hadith collection nor written separately, mainly due to other occupations such as the collection of the Quran. By the time of the next generations ensuing the sahabah, scholars in the age of the successors ('' tabi'in'') started using a wide range of sources for ''tafsir''. The whole of the Quran is interpreted, and narrations are separated from ''tafsir'' into separate books and literature. Grammatical explanations and historical data are preserved within these books; personal opinions are recorded, whether accepted or rejected. During this time, a whole range of schools of ''tafsir'' came into existence in different scholastic centers, including
Mecca Mecca (; officially Makkah al-Mukarramah, commonly shortened to Makkah ()) is a city and administrative center of the Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia, and the Holiest sites in Islam, holiest city in Islam. It is inland from Jeddah on the Red ...
,
Medina Medina,, ', "the radiant city"; or , ', (), "the city" officially Al Madinah Al Munawwarah (, , Turkish: Medine-i Münevvere) and also commonly simplified as Madīnah or Madinah (, ), is the second-holiest city in Islam Islam (; ar, ...
and
Iraq Iraq,; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq officially the Republic of Iraq, '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Turkey to Iraq–Turkey border, the north, Iran to Iran–Iraq ...
. Iraqi schools of ''tafsir'' came to be known for an approach relied on personal judgment aside from the transmitted reports, and Jewish apocryphal reports were also widely employed. Notable compilers on this age including Sufyan al-Thawri. Until this age, ''tafsir'' had been transmitted orally and had not been collected independently in a book, rather, they had been gathered by '' muhaddithun'' (lit. scholars of hadith) in their hadith books, under the topic of ''tafsir'', along with other narrations of Muhammad. This indicates that ''tafsir'', in its formative age, used to be a special domain within hadith. Widening of the scope of ''tafsir'' and emergence of ''mufassirun'' in the age of the successors lead to the development of an independent discipline of ''tafsir''.


Conditions

An author of ''tafsir'' is a ' ( ar, مُفسّر; plural: ar, مفسّرون, mufassirūn). According to
Sunni Sunni Islam () is the largest Islamic schools and branches, branch of Islam, followed by 85–90% of the world's Muslims. Its name comes from the word ''Sunnah'', referring to the tradition of Muhammad. The differences between Sunni and Shia ...
Islamic scholar
Al-Suyuti Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti ( ar, جلال الدين السيوطي, Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī) ( 1445–1505 CE),; (Brill Publications, Brill 2nd) or Al-Suyuti, was an Arab Egyptians, Egyptian polymath, Islamic scholar, historian, Sufism, Sufi, ...
, ''mufassirs'' are required to master 15 fields from different disciplines such as
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure. Linguis ...
,
rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of persuasion, which along with grammar and logic (or dialectic), is one of the Trivium, three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetoric aims to study the techniques writers or speakers utilize to inform, persuad ...
,
theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an Discipline (academia), academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the ...
and
jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of the propriety of law. Scholars of jurisprudence seek to explain the nature of law in its most general form and they also seek to achieve a deeper understanding of legal reasoning ...
before one can authoritatively interpret the Quran. The foremost discipline that constitutes the basis of ''tafsir'' learning is
Arabic language Arabic (, ' ; , ' or ) is a Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world The Arab world ( ar, اَلْعَالَمُ الْعَرَبِيُّ '), formally the Arab homeland ( '), also known as the Arab nation ( '), the Ara ...
. Arabic in this context specifically means
Classical Arabic Classical Arabic ( ar, links=no, ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلْفُصْحَىٰ, al-ʿarabīyah al-fuṣḥā) or Quranic Arabic is the standardized literary form of Arabic used from the 7th century and throughout the Middle Ages, most notab ...
. One of the earliest Islamic scholars Mujahid ibn Jabr said, "It is not permissible for one who holds faith in Allah and the Day of Judgment to speak on the Qur'an without learning classical Arabic." Especially relevant expertise is how one learns the meaning of each word. In this respect, it should be known that classical Arabic must be mastered in its entirety because one word may have various meanings; a person may only know two or three of them whereas the meaning of that word in the Qur'an may be altogether different. Other fields related to Arabic language includes
Philology Philology () is the study of language in oral and writing, written historical sources; it is the intersection of textual criticism, literary criticism, history, and linguistics (with especially strong ties to etymology). Philology is also defin ...
of
Arabic Arabic (, ' ; , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world.Semitic languages: an international handbook / edited by Stefan Weninger; in collaboration with Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Streck, Janet C ...
. It is important because any change in the diacritical marks affects the meaning, and understanding the diacritical marks depends on the science of Arabic philology. Morphology of Arabic language is also important because changes in the configuration of verb and noun forms change the meaning. Ibn Faris said, "A person who misses out on Arabic morphology has missed out on a lot." Lastly, ''Al-Ishtiqaaq'' is the science of etymology which explains the reciprocal relation and radical composition between the root and derived word. It should be learned because sometimes one word derives from two root words, the meaning of each root word being different. For example, a word ''masih'' derives from the root word ''massah'' (مَسَّة) which means "to feel something and to touch something with a wet hand," but also derives from the root word ''masaahat'' which means "to measure." Another relevant discipline is the science of interpreting the Arabic sentence. ''Ilm al-Ma'ani'' is the science by which one figures the syntax through the meaning of a sentence. ''Ilm al-Bayaan'' is the science by which one learns the similes, metaphors, metonymies, ''zuhoor'' (evident meanings) and ''khafa'' (hidden meanings) of the Arabic language. ''Ilm al-Badi is the science by which one learns to interpret sentences in which the beauty and eloquence of the spoken and written word are considered hidden. The above-mentioned three sciences are categorized as ''Ilm-ul-Balagha'' (science of rhetoric). It is one of the most principal sciences to a ''mufassir'' as it is deemed by Muslims that there are literal and non-literal meanings of the Quran, and one is able to reveal the miraculous nature of the Quran through these three sciences. A field from Quranic teaching is called '' Ilm al-Qira'at''. This is a system of dialecticism of the different readings of the Quran. This science is important because one ''
qira'at In Islam, ''Qirāah'', (pl. ''Qirāāt''; ar, قراءات , lit= recitations or readings) are different linguistic, lexical, phonetic, Morphology (linguistics), morphological and syntactical forms permitted with recitation, reciting the h ...
'' (way of reading) of the Quran may differ in meaning from another, and one learns to favor one reading over another based on the difference in the meanings. General sciences of Islamic theology and Islamic study are also imperative. '' Ilm al-Aqa'id'' and '' Ilm al-Kalam'' are comprehensive sciences in Islamic theology and philosophy. They are important because upon these understandings, one may understand issues such as invalidity of attributing the literal meaning of some ayah to God. In this case, one will be required to interpret the ayah as in 'the hand of Allah is over their hand'. Other key issues required to be addressed through comprehension of theology and philosophy includes that of free will and determinism, or the infallibility of the
prophet In religion, a prophet or prophetess is an individual who is regarded as being in contact with a divinity, divine being and is said to speak on behalf of that being, serving as an intermediary with humanity by delivering messages or teachings f ...
s. Comprehension of ''
Fiqh ''Fiqh'' (; ar, فقه ) is Islamic jurisprudence. Muhammad-> Sahabah, Companions-> Tabi‘un, Followers-> Fiqh. The commands and prohibitions chosen by God were revealed through the agency of the Prophet in both the Quran and the Sunnah (wo ...
'', Islamic jurisprudence, is important because one cannot gain an overview of any issue until he has understood its particulars. ''
Usul al-Fiqh Principles of Islamic jurisprudence, also known as ''uṣūl al-fiqh'' ( ar, أصول الفقه, lit. roots of fiqh), are traditional methodological principles used in Fiqh, Islamic jurisprudence (''fiqh'') for deriving the rulings of Islamic la ...
'', principles of Islamic jurisprudence, is also required so one understands the methodology of legal derivation and interpretation. Other distinctive systems linked with ''tafsir'' study including '' Asbaab al-Nuzul'', which is the field by which one learns the circumstances in which an ayah is revealed. It is important because the meaning of the ayah is more clearly understood once the circumstances in which it was revealed are known. Sometimes, the meaning of an ayah is wholly dependent on its historical background. Another is '' Ilm-ul-Naskh'', which is knowledge of the abrogated ayah. In general, due to the Quran made up of revelations that revealed to Muhammad in the course of more than twenty years, certain verses are considered meant to be temporary and subsequently repealed by the following ones. ''Ilm-ul-Naskh'' is a science of identifying the abrogations, and it is important because abrogated rulings must be separated from the applied rulings. '' Ilm al-Hadith'' is knowledge of the
hadith Ḥadīth ( or ; ar, حديث, , , , , , , literally "talk" or "discourse") or Athar ( ar, أثر, , literally "remnant"/"effect") refers to what the majority of Muslims believe to be a record of the words, actions, and the silent approva ...
which explain ''mujmal'' (general) ayah, and ''Ilm al-Ladunni'' (علم اللدّني) is the endowed knowledge which is considered granted by God to his closest servants. This is for example a knowledge obtained directly from Allah through inspiration. They are the servants indicated in the hadith: "Allah will grant one who acts upon whatever he knows from a knowledge he never knew."


Principles

There are several frames of reference in which ''tafsir'' can be categorized. The main issue of framing constitutes its methodology. ''Tafsir'' can be broadly divided into two categories from the viewpoint of methodology employed in order to approach the interpretation. These categories are called ''tafsīr bi'l-ma'thūr'' ( ar, التفسير بالمأثور, lit=received tafsir, also known as ''tafsīr bi'r-riwāyah'' ( ar, تفسير بالرواية)) and ''tafsīr bi'r-ra'y'' ( ar, التفسير بالرأي, lit=tafsir by opinion, also known as ''tafsīr bi'd-dirayah'' ar, تفسير بالدراية).


''Tafsir bi'l-Ma'thur'' (or ''Tafsir bi'r-Riwayah'')

''Tafsir bi'l-ma'thur'', or commonly known as ''Tafsir bi'r-riwāyah'', is the method of commenting on the Quran using traditional sources. ''Tafsir bi'r-riwāyah'' connotes ''tafsir'' using another portion of the Quran, or sayings of Muhammad, or saying of his companions. This classical ''tafsir'' method is agreed upon by all scholars, and is the most used method throughout history, partly because other methods have been criticized. Criticism of non-riwaya method is mostly based on two grounds; for one, Muhammad has condemned those who interpret the Quran from their own point of view,Tirmizi, Tafsir, 1 and for two, most companions of Muhammad have refrained from presenting their own ideas. Some important examples of ''tafsir bi'r-riwāyah'' are '' Jāmiʿ al-Bayān'' by
al-Tabari ( ar, أبو جعفر محمد بن جرير بن يزيد الطبري), more commonly known as al-Ṭabarī (), was a Muslim historian and scholar from Amol, Tabaristan. Among the most prominent figures of the Islamic Golden Age, al-Tabari i ...
and '' Tafseer al-Qurʾān al-ʿAẓeem'' by
ibn Kathir Abū al-Fiḍā’ ‘Imād ad-Dīn Ismā‘īl ibn ‘Umar ibn Kathīr al-Qurashī al-Damishqī (Arabic Arabic (, ' ; , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world.Semitic languages: an interna ...
. The sources used for ''tafsir bi'r-riwāyah'' can be ordered by the rank of authority, as the Quran, hadiths, the reports by the ''sahabah'' and ''tabi'iun'', classical Arabic literature, and Isra'iliyat. The most authoritative source of the interpretation is the Quran itself. Interpretation of the Quran employing other Quranic reference is very common because of the close interrelatedness of the verses of the Quran with one another. The Quranic verses explain and interpret one another, which leads many to believe that it has the highest level of authenticity. Many verses or words in the Quran are explained or further clarified in other verses of the Quran. One example of the hadith which extensively employs this source of method is '' Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an'' by
Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i or Sayyid Mohammad Hossein Tabataba'i (16 March 1903 – 15 November 1981) was an Iranian scholar, theorist, philosopher and one of the most prominent thinkers of modern Shia Islam. He is perhaps best known for his ''T ...
. The authoritative source of method second to the Quran is Hadith, by using
narratives A narrative, story, or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional (memoir, biography, news report, documentary, travel literature, travelogue, etc.) or fictional (fairy tale, fable, legend, thriller (ge ...
of Muhammad to interpret the Quran. In this approach the most important external aids used are the collected oral traditions upon which Muslim scholars based Islamic history and law. Authority of this method is considered established by the statement made in the Quran that Muhammad is responsible for explanation and guidance. While some narratives are of revelation origin, others can be the result of reasonings made by Muhammad. One important aspect of these narratives is their origin. Narratives used for ''tafsir'', and in general, must be of authentic origin (''
sahih Hadith terminology ( ar, مصطلح الحديث, muṣṭalaḥu l-ḥadīth) is the body of terminology in Islam which specifies the acceptability of the sayings (''hadith'') attributed to the Prophets in Islam, Islamic prophet Muhammad by othe ...
''). Narratives of such origin are considered requisite for ''tafsir''. Other source of the interpretation includes the accounts of '' Ṣaḥābah'', companions of Muhammad, or '' tabi‘un'', the generation after sahabah, and '' Tabi‘ al-Tabi‘in'', the generation after tabi'un. Their authority is based on an account in hadith ''
Sahih Bukhari Sahih al-Bukhari ( ar, صحيح البخاري, translit=Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), group=note is a ''hadith'' collection and a book of ''sunnah'' compiled by the Persian scholar Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl al-Bukhārī (810–870) around 846. Alo ...
'', which accordingly, Muhammad said;
"''The best people are those living in my generation, then those coming after them ( Tābi‘un), and then those coming after (the third generation)"''.
If nothing is found in the Quran or the Hadīth, the commentator has recourse to what the Ṣaḥābah reported about various verses. These are generally considered above personal opinion, because these people grew up with everyday interaction with Muhammad, and had often asked about the meanings of verses or circumstances of their revelation; and they were very knowledgeable in both Arabic literature and Islamic thought. Another non-scripture based source of the interpretation is classical
Arabic literature Arabic literature ( ar, الأدب العربي / ALA-LC: ''al-Adab al-‘Arabī'') is the writing, both as prose and poetry, produced by writers in the Arabic language. The Arabic word used for literature is ''Adab (Islam), Adab'', which is de ...
. Classical
Arabic poetry Arabic poetry ( ar, الشعر العربي ''ash-shi‘ru al-‘Arabīyyu'') is the earliest form of Arabic literature. Present knowledge of poetry in Arabic dates from the 6th century, but oral poetry is believed to predate that. Arabic poetry ...
and the text of the Quran are two resources which can be used as foundational reference in ascertaining the meaning and signification of the remaining literal and figurative diction of the Quran and its style of expression. Using Arabic poetry for defining words is a long used practice, in fact there are very few scholars who haven't used this source. Less authoritative source of the interpretation is '' Isra'iliyat'', which is the body of narratives originating from
Judeo-Christian The term Judeo-Christian is used to group Christianity and Judaism together, either in reference to Split of early Christianity and Judaism, Christianity's derivation from Judaism, Christianity's borrowing of Jewish Scripture to constitute the "Ol ...
traditions, rather than from other well-accepted sources. The Isra'iliyat are mostly non-
biblical The Bible (from Koine Greek , , 'the books') is a collection of religious texts or scriptures that are held to be sacredness, sacred in Christianity, Judaism, Samaritanism, and many other religions. The Bible is an anthologya compilation of ...
explanatory stories and traditions (Hebrew: ''midrashim'') giving extra information or interpretation about events or individuals recorded in the Hebrew scriptures. Scholars starting with the Sahabah have studied narrative accounts of other
Abrahamic religion The Abrahamic religions are a group of religions centered around worship of the God in Abrahamic religions, God of Abraham. Abraham, a Hebrews , Hebrew patriarch, is extensively mentioned throughout Abrahamic religious scriptures such as the B ...
s to further explain and clarify verses, especially parables, in the Quran. While some may be accurate, these narratives are not subject to hadith authenticity criteria, and are generally not favored for use.


''Tafsir bi'r-Ra'y'' (or ''Tafsir bi'd-dirayah'')

''Tafsir bi'r-ra'y'', or commonly known as ''tafsir bi-al-diraya'', is the method of using one's independent rational reasoning and mind (''
ijtihad ''Ijtihad'' ( ; ar, اجتهاد ', ; lit. physical or mental ''effort'') is an Islamic legal term referring to independent reasoning by an expert in Islamic law, or the thorough exertion of a jurist's mental faculty in finding a solution to a le ...
'') to form an opinion-oriented interpretation. The most distinctive feature of ''tafsir bi-al-diraya'' is the inclusion of the opinions of the commentator, thus forming the more objective view on Quranic verses. The relative paucity of traditional sources is also a practical reason why the scope of the methodology is augmented. This is considered sanctioned by the Quran itself, as written in the surah Sad verse 29: This method is not interpretation by mere opinion however, but rather opinions must be based on the main sources. Performing Quranic interpretation using solely one's own opinion is believed to be prohibited by some Muslims. This is based on an authenticated hadith of Muhammad which states "He who says (something) concerning the Qur'ân without knowledge, he has taken his seat of fire". However, this hadith can alternatively be interpreted to refer to the importance of first properly studying and learning the Quran before attempting to teach or preach it to others. Accordingly, the method of independent reasoning (''ijtihad'') has several qualifications and conditions that need to be satisfied. Due to the nature of orientation toward opinions, this method is rejected by certain scholars such as
Ibn Taymiyyah Ibn Taymiyyah (January 22, 1263 – September 26, 1328; ar, ابن تيمية), birth name Taqī ad-Dīn ʾAḥmad ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm ibn ʿAbd al-Salām al-Numayrī al-Ḥarrānī ( ar, تقي الدين أحمد بن عبد الحليم ب ...
, and prohibited by
Wahhabi Wahhabism ( ar, ٱلْوَهَّابِيَةُ, translit=al-Wahhābiyyah) is a Sunni Islamic Islamic revival, revivalist and Islamic fundamentalism, fundamentalist movement associated with the reformist doctrines of the 18th-century Arabians, ...
Islamic doctrine. Some important examples of such ''tafsirs'' include '' Anwar al-Tanzil'' by al-Baydawi and '' Mafatih al-Ghayb'' by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi. Some parameters used by these scholars including linguistic resources, historical sources, methodological concepts such as ''maqasid'' or socio-cultural environment taken into consideration. In terms of linguistic resources, literary elements of the
Arabic language Arabic (, ' ; , ' or ) is a Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world The Arab world ( ar, اَلْعَالَمُ الْعَرَبِيُّ '), formally the Arab homeland ( '), also known as the Arab nation ( '), the Ara ...
, including morphology, eloquence, syntax are an integral part of ''tafsir'', as they constitute the basis of understanding and interpretation. Arabic has a systematic way of shaping words so one can know the meaning by knowing the root and the form the word was coined from. If any word can be given a meaning that is compatible with the rules of grammar, Quranic text can be interpreted that way. In terms of historical resources, scholars may choose to interpret verses according to external factors, including their historical context and their place of revelation. Historical context (''
Asbab al-nuzul Occasions or circumstances of revelation (''asbāb'' ''al-nuzūl'', ) names the historical context in which Quranic verses were revealed from the perspective of Traditionalist theology (Islam), traditional Islam. Though of some use in reconstructi ...
'') is particularly important to interpret verses according to how the Quran was revealed, when and under which circumstances, and much commentary was dedicated to history. The early ''tafsirs'' are considered to be some of the best sources for
Islamic history The history of Islam concerns the political, social, economic, military, and cultural developments of the Muslim world, Islamic civilization. Most historians believe that Islam originated in Mecca and Medina at the start of the 7th century C ...
. Classification of the place of revelation, whether it was revealed in
Mecca Mecca (; officially Makkah al-Mukarramah, commonly shortened to Makkah ()) is a city and administrative center of the Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia, and the Holiest sites in Islam, holiest city in Islam. It is inland from Jeddah on the Red ...
or
Medina Medina,, ', "the radiant city"; or , ', (), "the city" officially Al Madinah Al Munawwarah (, , Turkish: Medine-i Münevvere) and also commonly simplified as Madīnah or Madinah (, ), is the second-holiest city in Islam Islam (; ar, ...
, is important as well. This is because in general Meccan verses tend to have an '' iman'' (loosely translated as ''faith'') nature that includes believing in Allah, Muhammad, and the day of judgment, whether it be theological foundations or basic faith principles. On the other hand, Medinan verses constitute legislation, social obligations, and constitution of a state. On the more conceptual level, the idea of '' maqasid'' (goals or purpose) can be taken into account. Verses may be interpreted to preserve the general goals of
shariah Sharia (; ar, شريعة, sharīʿa ) is a body of religious law that forms a part of the Islamic tradition. It is derived from the Five Pillars of Islam, religious precepts of Islam and is based on the Islamic holy books, sacred scriptures o ...
, which may be considered simply as bringing happiness to a person in this life and the hereafter. That way, any interpretation that threatens to compromise the preservation of religion, life, lineage, intellect or property may be discarded or ruled otherwise in order to secure these goals. Further, the socio-cultural environment may also taken into consideration. This includes understanding and interpreting the Quran while taking into account the cultural and social environment to which it has been revealed; or according to the scholars' own time. Often than not, the distinction can be made between the amm'' (general) verses that aimed at universal conditions for Muslims, and ''khass'' (specific) verses that applied to specific conditions, time or need. This is considered an integral part of analyzing the universality of the Quran. Scholars usually do not favor to confine verses to a single time interval, but rather interpret according to the needs of their time.


Sects

Islamic theology is divided into myriad of schools and branches, and each of the schools' comments on the Quran with their own point of view.


Sunni

The time of
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari ( ar, أبو جعفر محمد بن جرير بن يزيد الطبري), more commonly known as al-Ṭabarī (), was a Muslim historian and scholar from Amol, Tabaristan. Among the most prominent figures of the Islamic Golden Age, al-Tabar ...
marks the classical period, which encompassed important Sunni ''tafsirs'', such as ''
Tafsir al-Thalabi ''Al-Kashf wa-l-bayān ʿan tafsīr al-Qurʾān'' ( ar, الكشف والبيان عن تفسير القرآن), commonly known as the ''Tafsir al-Thalabi'', is a classical Sunni Islam, Sunni ''tafsir'', or commentary on the Quran, by eleventh-cent ...
'', '' Tafsir of Al-Zamakhshari'' and '' Tafsir al-Tabari''. ''Tafsir al-Tabari'' is one of the most important ''tafsir'' works in Sunni Islam. This work provides exegetical material for the whole Quran, also contains conflicting information, which Tabari tries either to harmonize or argues in support of the one he feels more correct. Further he includes different readings, which according to him, both might be correct and gives his own opinion after each argumentation. Both linguistical and theological subjects are discussed throughout his work. Regarding ''Sunni tafsir'', it seems that
Ibn Taimiyya Ibn Taymiyyah (January 22, 1263 – September 26, 1328; ar, ابن تيمية), birth name Taqī ad-Dīn ʾAḥmad ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm ibn ʿAbd al-Salām al-Numayrī al-Ḥarrānī ( ar, تقي الدين أحمد بن عبد الحليم ...
serves as transition points between the Classical and post-Classical exegesis. The post-classical period is marked by the exegetic methodology of
Ibn Kathir Abū al-Fiḍā’ ‘Imād ad-Dīn Ismā‘īl ibn ‘Umar ibn Kathīr al-Qurashī al-Damishqī (Arabic Arabic (, ' ; , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world.Semitic languages: an interna ...
. Although Ibn Kathir claimed to rely on the works of Tabari, he introduced new methods for his exegesis, based on the teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah. His monovalency and sceptical attitude towards '' Isra'iliyyat'' are significant for his ''tafsir''. It is much more selective than previous ''tafsirs'',Oliver Leaman ''The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia'' Taylor & Francis 2006 page 632 and disregards intellectual disciplines of grammar, law and theology, which has been previously brought into debate, but played no role in his Quranic exegesis. In contemporary scholarship, translations of previous ''tafsirs'' into the English language are usually abridged versions of their longer original. One widespread version of ''Tafsir Ibn Kathir'' is published under the editorship of Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman. Such translations are often omitting content, to guide the readers against "wrong" content, following the puritanical approaches. Ibn Kathir gained widespread popularity, probably due to his straight approach in his own work, and the lack of alternative translations of traditional ''tafsirs''. Abridged translations into Western language also appeared for ''Tafsir Tabari''. One French version provided by Pierre Godé appeared in 1983. He edited the work in a way, that the author appears 'orthodox'. An English translation of Tabari by J. Cooper appeared in 1986. '' Bayan Ul Quran'' is another orthodox sunni tafsir written by Ashraf Ali Thanwi.


Shi'ite

Tafsirs by Shia Muslims similarly deals with the issues concerned by Sunnis, and employs similar methodology as well, except for the adherence toward certain beliefs and creeds Shiism espouses. Distinctive features of Shia ''tafsirs'' include expounding of the concept of imamate, the heavier weight put on verses that considered to be the foundation of successorship to Muhammad within the Prophet's family begins with Ali, and the heavier authority put on interpretations attributed to
The Twelve Imams The Twelve Imams ( ar, ٱلْأَئِمَّة ٱلْٱثْنَا عَشَر, '; fa, دوازده امام, ') are the spiritual and political successors to the Islam Islam (; ar, ۘالِإسلَام, , ) is an Abrahamic monotheisti ...
. These characteristics result in distinction being made between the esoteric and the exoteric meaning of the Quran, and the esoteric meaning attributed to the imams preferred over the exoteric meaning. Certain Shia ''tafsirs'' are influenced by Mu'tazili thoughts as well, specifically on the theological issues. Some of the important examples of Shia ''mufassirs'' and their ''tafsir'' are '' Al-Tibbyan Fi Tafsir al-Quran'' by
Shaykh Tusi Shaykh Tusi ( fa, شیخ طوسی), full name ''Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Hassan Tusi'' ( ar, ابو جعفر محمد بن حسن طوسی), known as Shaykh al-Taʾifah ( ar, links=no, شيخ الطائفة) was a prominent Persian people, Persia ...
(460/1067) and '' Majma al-Bayan lif'ulum al-Quran'' by
Shaykh Tabarsi Abu Ali Fadhl ibn Hasan Tabresi (Persian language, Persian/Arabic:ابو على فضل بن حسن طبرسى) known as Shaykh Tabarsi, was a 12th-century Persian people, Persian Shia scholar who died in 548 AH (1153 CE). Life Tabresi was born ...
(d. 548/1153). On the other hand, ''tafsir'' by Zaidi school of jurisprudence, which espouses the doctrine closest with Sunnis of all Shia sects, produces ''tafsir'' resembling Sunni ''tafsir'' in its quality. Some Zaidi ''tafsirs'' are considered popular among Sunnis as well.


Mu'tazila

The
Mu'tazila Muʿtazila ( ar, المعتزلة ', English: "Those Who Withdraw, or Stand Apart", and who called themselves ''Ahl al-ʿAdl wa al-Tawḥīd'', English: "Party of ivineJustice and Oneness f God); was an Islamic group that appeared in early ...
tradition of tafsir has received little attention in modern scholarship, owing to several reasons. First, several exegetical works by Mu'tazila scholars have been studied as books on theology rather than as works of ''tafsir''. Secondly, the large Mu'tazilite ''tafsir'' ''at-Tahdib fi tafsir al-Qur'an'' by al-Hakim al-Jishumi has not been edited, and there is no complete copy of it available at any single location, which limits its accessibility to scholars.


Sufi

It is an interpretation of the Quran which includes attribution of esoteric or mystic meanings to the text by the interpreter. In this respect, its method is different from the conventional exegesis. Esoteric interpretations do not usually contradict the conventional (in this context called exoteric) interpretations; instead, they discuss the inner levels of meaning of the Quran. A ''hadith'' from Muhammad which states that the Quran has an inner meaning, and that this inner meaning conceals a yet deeper inner meaning, and so on (up to seven levels of meaning), has sometimes been used in support of this view. Islamic opinion imposes strict limitations on esoteric interpretations especially when interior meaning is against exterior one. Esoteric interpretations are found mainly in
Sufism Sufism ( ar, ''aṣ-ṣūfiyya''), also known as Tasawwuf ( ''at-taṣawwuf''), is a mysticism, mystic body of religious practice, found mainly within Sunni Islam but also within Shia Islam, which is characterized by a focus on Islamic spiri ...
and in the sayings (hadiths) of Shi'a Imams and the teachings of the
Isma'ili Isma'ilism ( ar, الإسماعيلية, al-ʾIsmāʿīlīyah) is a branch or sub-sect of Shia Islam Shīʿa Islam or Shīʿīsm is the second-largest Islamic schools and branches, branch of Islam. It holds that the Prophets and messe ...
sect. But Muhammad and the imams gave importance to its exterior as much as to its interior; they were as much concerned with its revelation as they were with its interpretation. These are generally not independently written, however, they are found in the books of Sufis. Among the most significant Sunni Sufi tafsirs are: * ''Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim'' by al-Tustari (d. 283/896) * ''Haqa'iq al-Tafsir'' by al-Sulami (d. 412/1021) * ''Lata'if al-Isharat'' by al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072) * ''Ara'is al-Bayan fi Haqa'iq al-Qur'an'' by Ruzbihan al-Baqli (d. 606/1209) * ''Ruh al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an'' by Isma'il Haqqi al-Brusawi (d. 1137/1725) * '' Al-Bahr al-Madid fi Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Majid'' by Ahmad ibn 'Ajiba (d. 1224/1809)


Quranist

Quranists merely believe in the Qur'an and reject other oral traditions. Turkish Islamic theologian Yaşar Nuri Öztürk denounced contemporary Islamic practices as altered. He distinguished between what he defined as true Islam and what he saw as customs and traditions introduced in the Umayyad period. In 1992, he published a 760-page, ''tafsir''-like exegetical work called ''Kur'an'daki Islam''. Each chapter, which deals with one surah, is structured around certain verses of the surah, or words occurring in the text, which need to be explained. Edip Yüksel, Layth Saleh al-Shaiban, and Martha Schulte-Nafeh wrote ''Quran: A Reformist Translation,'' an English translation and commentary of the Qur'an. Yüksel is a follower of
Rashad Khalifa Rashad Khalifa ( ar, رشاد خليفة; November 19, 1935 – January 31, 1990) was an Egyptian American, Egyptian-American biochemist, closely associated with the United Submitters International (USI), an organization which promotes the practi ...
. Ghulam Ahmed Perwez wrote ''Mafhoom-ul-Quran,'' translated into English as ''Exposition of the Holy Qur'an''.


Methodologies


Scientific approach

Scholars deeply influenced by the natural and social sciences followed the materialists of Europe or the pragmatists. Under the influence of those secular theories, they declared that the religion's realities cannot go against scientific knowledge. What the religion claims to exist, but which the sciences reject should be interpreted in a way that conforms with the science; as for those things which the science is silent about, like the resurrection etc., they should be brought within the purview of the laws of matter; the pillars upon which the divine religious laws are based — like revelation, angel, Satan, prophethood, apostleship, Imamah (Imamate) etc. - are spiritual things, and the spirit is a development of the matter. As for the Quran itself, one should not explain it in the light of the old philosophy and theories, because they were not based on observations and tests — they were just a sort of mental exercise which has been totally discredited now by the modern science. Found by Ghazali and built upon by Razi, it is one of today's most abundant way of ''tafsir''. A common example is '' Mafatih al-Ghayb'' by Fakhruddin al-Razi.


Legal approach

Legal ''tafsir'' deals mainly with verses that have a legislative meaning (see
ahkam ''Ahkam'' (, ar, أحكام "rulings", plural of ()) is an Islamic Islam (; ar, ۘالِإسلَام, , ) is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism#Islam, monotheistic religion centred primarily around the Quran, a religious ...
), and it strives to obtain Islamic law from the Quran. Its practice was common in both the classical and modern periods. There is a dispute over the number of verses that contain jurisprudential guidance, with numbers ranging from 5 to 200 being reported. Works of legal tafsir were typically written from the perspectives of the
madhhab A ( ar, مذهب ', , "way to act". pl. مَذَاهِب , ) is a school of thought within ''fiqh ''Fiqh'' (; ar, فقه ) is Islamic jurisprudence. Muhammad-> Sahabah, Companions-> Tabi‘un, Followers-> Fiqh. The commands and prohibi ...
of their respective authors. For example, ''Aḥkam al-Qur'an'' by al-Jassas was written according to the Hanafi Madhhab, ''Aḥkam al-Qur'an'' by Qaḍi Abū Bakr ibn al-'Arabī and ''al-Jaami' Li'Aḥkam al-Qur'an'' by al-Qurtubi were written according to the Maliki Madhhab, and ''Aḥkam al-Qur'an'' by Ilkiya was written according to the
Shafi'i The Shafii ( ar, شَافِعِي, translit=Shāfiʿī, also spelled Shafei) school, also known as Madhhab al-Shāfiʿī, is one of the four major traditional Fiqh, schools of religious law (madhhab) in the Sunni Islam, Sunnī branch of Islam. I ...
Madhhab. Some also cite ''Zad al-Maseer'' of
ibn al-Jawzi ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. ʿAlī b. Muḥammad Abu 'l-Faras̲h̲ b. al-Jawzī, often referred to as Ibn al-Jawzī (Arabic: ابن الجوزي, ''Ibn al-Jawzī''; ca. 1116 – 16 June 1201) for short, or reverentially as ''Imam Ibn al-Jawzī'' by ...
as an example of a legal tafsir according to the Hanbali Madhhab.


Linguistic

A newer work which incorporates and quotes the work of a multitude of previous scholars and analyzes the relevant Arabic root words (based on all available classic Arabic meanings), and references all relevant passages of the Quran, was done by Abdul Mannan Omar.


See also

* Esoteric interpretation of the Quran (Ta'wil) *
Islamic studies Islamic studies refers to the academic study of Islam, and generally to academic multidisciplinary "studies" programs—programs similar to others that focus on the history, texts and theologies of other religious traditions, such as Easter ...
* List of tafsir works * Quran translations


References

{{Authority control Islamic terminology Quran