Methodologies of the Qur'Anic Exegesis

December 27, 2017 | Author: Nabila Naja | Category: Exegesis, Quran, Sahabah, Ali, Qur'an
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Published by A.S. NOORDEEN



First Published Jamadil Akhir 1416/November 1995

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, without written permission from the copyright owner. ISBN :983-065-0 13-8

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Chapter 1 Qur'anic exegesis: Principles, Characteristics And Methodologies


Chapter 2 Peculiarities In Interpretation Of The Qur'an


Chapter 3 Early Schools Of Exegesis (Tafslr)


Chapter 4 A Brief Survey Of The Tafslr Literature


Chapter 5 Studies On Translation Of The Qur' an


Chapter 6 Some Themes In The Qur' an






Notes And References






PREFACE he Qur'an is the literal word of Allah (s.w.t) revealed to the prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.s) as a universal message. It is a complete and comprehensive guidance for the humanity. The Prophet (s.a.a.s) used to explain and interpret the verses of the Qur' an. However, the circumstances were such that he did not comment on every verse of the Qur' an. Therefore, it was appropriate for the Companions and the Successors to produce commentary to the Qur'an in order to explain those verses which were not commented and expounded by the Prophet (s.a.a.s).


Subsequently, three madiiris (schools) were established to explain the Qur'an. These were the Makkan school led by 'Abd Allah bin 'Abbas who is reputed to be the first exegete in the history of Islam, the Madinan school led by Ubay bin Ka'ab and the Iraqi school led by 'Abd Allah bin Mas'lid. The methodologies adopted by these schools contributed greatly to the development of the Qur' anic exegesis. Subsequently, several other mufassirun, who were the students of the Companions, produced commentaries on the Qur' an with methodologies other than the riwiiyah. Methodology of one differed from the others and gradually, this field was greatly enriched.




After the period of the Successors, many other Commentators endeavoured to provide exegesis based on new methodologies. During the first five centuries of hijrah, several Qur' anic exegesis came into being which were generally classified as: exegesis based on riwayah or ma 'thur (transmission or narration); exegesis based on dirayah or ra 'y (knowledge or opinion); and, exegesis based on isharah (sign or indication). These methodologies were reliable, for they were in line with the objectives set by the predecessors. Meanwhile, other methodologies also emerged in various sects (madhahib). These methodologies are not recognized by the ahl al sunnah wa al jama 'ah as authentic-,-because their interpretation of the verses are strange, peculiar, mischievous and above all they are not in conformity with riwayah, the stipulated conditions and the methodologies laid down by the wellknown and reliable mufassirun. As a result of the need for interpretation of the Qur' an, many mufassirun postulated methodologies and eventually laid down fundamental principles as pre-requisites and conditions for the correct and authentic interpretation of the Qur' anic verses. The aim of this work is to provide a critical and meaningful introduction to the methodologies of the Qur' anic exegesis (manahijal-tafslr) for the University students in general and the researchers in particular. This is a pioneering study and is necessitated by the absence of an objective and analytical work




on methodologies of the Qur'anic exegesis of both classical and contemporary periods in English language. This work deals in a comprehensive manner with different kinds, principles, characteristics and the methodologies of the Qur' anic exegesis. The methodologies adopted by various sects in providing peculiar and strange interpretations to some of the verses of the Qur' an by the deviationist schools are also examined in depth. Another important feature one could find in this work is the critical survey on the methodology and characteristics of classical and contemporary tafaslr literature of various trends. It is fervently hoped that this survey would provide a better understanding of ta/sir literature. The issue whether the Qur' an could be translated into other languages or not occupies central importance in this study. It examines the views of several jurists on the literal and thematic translation of the Qur' an into various languages. Finally, it discusses some of the important themes in the Qur' an, even though they are not directly related to this work. Since the book is directed to the students of the institutions of higher learning, this discussion should be of immense benefit to them. Regarding the transliteration, a table is attached. In some places translation of the Qur' an taken from The Holy Qur'an:Text,Translation and Commentary by 'Abd Allah Yllsuf 'Ali is mentioned. Reference of the Qur' anic verses is bracketed by giving the pair of





numbers, of which the former is the number of the surah (chapter} and the latter of the verse. The notes and references for each chapter are mentioned at the end of the last chapter of the book. The work has concluded with a detailed bibliography in the form of an appendix.

Dr. Thameem Ushama

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS is t a privilege and honour to express my gratitude for those whose valuable service, constructive criticism and generous help made this work appear in a presentable form. Initially, I wish to express my deep sense of gratitude to Dato. Dr. 'Abdul I:Iamid A1).mad Abu Sulayman, the Rector of International Islamic University, Malaysia for his farsighted vision and guidance towards Islamization of Knowledge. This work would not have been possible without his whole hearted support and sincere encouragement. His advice to IIU community to produce intellectual work and text books has inspired me to venture into this brief and useful project. I am also indebted to Prof. Dr. Mu1).ammad Kamal I:Iassan, the Honourable deputy Rector of the University for his concern to promote research attitude in the University and prepare text books for the students.


I am grateful to Prof. Dr. Anis A1).mad,the former Dean of the Kulliyyah for his consistent advice. My thanks are also due to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohamed Nur Nawawi, former Acting Dean of the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, Dr. Siddiq Baba, the deputy Rector for Student Affairs cum incharge of the Kulliyyah, Assoc Prof. Dr. Abdul





Rashid Moten, Head, department of Political Science, Prof. Dr. Abdul Khaliq Qazi, the deputy Dean (Academics) Kulliyyah of IsHimic Revealed knowledge and Human Sciences and Dr. Mui)ammad Mumtaz Ali. I also thank Sr.Maizama who assisted me in typing this manuscript. I am also thankful to Mrs Verna Taylor, Centre for languages and Sr.Ayesha Kim for their suggesstions for linguistic improvement. I record my gratitude to Mr. Shaukat Ali, Assistant Professor, department of Communication for editing this work. Of course, my thanks and prayers are also to my wife Regina Begum and my children Kirama, Kiyama, Imama and Lizama for providing peaceful environment to complete this work. I wish to express my affectionate gratitude to my beloved father late Allama S.R.Mohamed Thameem who provided all possible facilities and support for my education till I completed my doctorate and for his concern and counsel to produce such a work. He was willing to see this work published while he was alive, but Allah's (s.w.t) decision was different. May Allah rest his soul in peace. I record also with pleasure my debt to A.S. Noordeen for the publication of the work. May Allah (s.w.t) accept this humble effort and forgive its shortcomings, Amin.


QUR' ANIC EXEGESIS: PRINCIPLES, CHARACTERISTICS AND·METHODOLOGIES llah (S.w.t) revealed the Qur'an, the mighty Scripture so as to be the source of constitution and the guidance and to expound a comprehensive system and practical methodology for life. The Qur' an indeed, illuminates everything essential to humanity. People acquire knowledge on transcendental as well as metaphysical aspects in addition to comprehensiveness of temporal life from its substance and get inspiration from its wisdom. Perfection and elevation of the people's standard of life to the lofty position is the prime objective of it. It educates people as to how to obtain dignified leadership of the world in order to get felicity and salvation. People find their life easier and smooth and obtain prestige and nobility due to their adherence to the teachings of the Qur'an. Eventually, it also guarantees a formula which consolidates and integrates people in order to get security and tranquility which are indispensable for regulating spiritual order.


It is observed that the humanity has mentally submerged in the darkness of ignorance, misfortune, distress, and drowned in the ocean of dissolution, invocation of materialism and plutalatory. The Mankind does not have a saviour except the Qur' an. It shows them

2 _ •••••••


the way towards the right direction with its education which contains all ingredients needed for prosperity and success. This objective of building up committed and sincere personalities cannot be achieved without proper understanding of the message of Qur' an. This field of knowledge (ta/sir) could only be construed after unveiling the divine secrecies and esoteric knowledge of the Qur' an. It actually refers to the study of the verses of the Qur' an deeply and elaborately which is in other words known as the knowledge of ta/sir (exegesis) particularly in this contemporary age whereby the philosophy of life has been highly adulterated and misconstrued. The ta/sir therefore is the key to the treasure of knowledge and without it, it is impossible to arrive at the door of this treasure, even though the people repeat the words of the Qur' an incommensurable times and read the verses every morning and evening with incantation. It is regrettable to express that many common Muslims think that reciting and repeating the words of the Qur' an with melodious voice in a chanting manner in the cemeteries, official ceremonies and festivals is quite sufficient and the Qur' an does not demand more than that. Furthermore, the Qur' an is also not regarded except as a Book to recite it as an entertainment or benediction and blessing. That is why the Messenger (s.a.a.s) once said that they consider the Qur' an as psalm. The Muslims have either forgotten or made to bypass that great blessings of the Qur'an lie in the real-



ization of its meanings, comprehension, utilization and the advantage in its education and guidance. Then, the pursuit of this knowledge is made imperative as it is said "(Here) a Book which We have sent down unto thee, full of blessings, that they may meditate on its sign and that Men of understanding may recieve admonition"(38;29). "Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur' an, or are their hearts locked up by them" (47:24); "And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition" (54: 17)

Need For Commentary (Exegesis) Human beings may raise questions such as why do we make commentary on the Qur'[m? What is the need for it? Is commentary imperative' or elective, obligatory or recommendatory while reading of the Qur' an fulfils its requirements such as incantation and other aspects. In response to these questions, we can assertively say that the commentary on the Qur' an helps human beings to comprehend both the realities and transcendental mysteries of Allah and the Universe. It further liberates Man from life long servitude to both man and matters, and leads him to worship the real Sustainer and the Master of the Universe alone. Through such commentary, an individual is linked with the society, then with the Creator and Perfector - the Lord of the Great throne.

4 •••••••••


The Qur'an, as it is stated earlier, is the constitution of the Islamic ummah and the guidance from the Creator. It is the Sharz'ah of the Lord for the entire inhabitants of the earth. It is a light of divine origin which provides heavenly guidance. It presents eternal and immutable laws and sponsores everything that human beings require in matters of their spiritual and material world. It is not a surprise while we state that it is a complete Book containing comprehensive guidance in all spheres of human activity in terms of doctrines, acts of devotion, ethics, transactions and politics, law, war and peace, economic system and international relations. It is an extensive scripture revealed by Allah (s.w.t) as an exposition to each and everything, particularly guidance and mercy for the community that subscribes to the belief in Allah. It is full of wisdom, promises and admonitions. It does not constitute contradictions, incompatibilities, improbabilities and differences. It is no wonder if we say that a human being will never attain happiness without its dazzling guidance and adherence to its teachings. It is a remedy and convalescence for all kinds of disease of the heart and a salvation to solve the crisis of the modern society as it is said: We sent down (stage by stage) in the Qur'an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe to the unjust it causes nothing but loss after loss (17:82)

Ta/sir And Ta 'wil Two terms are used in the Qur' an while referring to exegesis or commentary. They are tafslr and ta 'wll.



Let us study the meaning of these two terms and distinction between them. Literall y, tafsir means, clarification, explanation, and illustration. I "And no question do they bring to thee but We reveal to thee the truth and the best explanation (thereof) (25:33) Technically, the word tafsir refers to the knowledge and comprehensive understanding of the Book of Allah (s.w.t) revealed to Mu1)ammad (s.a.a.s) and an elucidation of its profound meaning, extraction of its laws, wisdom and maxims.2 It is also stated that it is the knowledge of research on the Qur' an. It is further called exegesis. Ta 'wll refers to the interpretation or reclamation of meanings.3 That is, a mufassir reverts to a meaning of the verse from various probable meanings.4 Some 'ulama' advocate that ta 'wU is synonymous with tafsir.5 It is also mentioned that the first word is ta 'wU which means tadblr, taqdir and tafsir corresponding to meditation, contemplation and interpretation:6 " Seeking discord and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah (3:7). Technically it refers to, among the classical authors, tafsir. It is propounded that tafsir al-Qur' an corresponds to ta'wll al-Qur'an with the same meaning? Mujahid stated, the 'ulama' knew that ta 'wll meant tafsir of the Qur'an.8 Nevertheless, a group of 'ulama' expresses that between tafsir and ta 'wU there

6 ________


is an obvious difference and it is very popular among contemporary commentators and writers.9 To them, ta/sir refers to the external meaning of the verses of the Qur' an, whereas, ta 'wll refers to the preponderant of some of the probable meanings of a verse which bears numerous meanings.lO AI-Suylirt mentioned after having a thorough analysis of various possible meanings of the Qur'an, that tafsir refers to the illumination of the external meaning of the Qur' an while ta 'wU is the extraction of the hidden meanings and secrecies of the most gracious Lord. 1 I This inference of AI-Suylitl has also been shared and advocated by AI-Allis! and others. 12 To sum, ta/sir refers to elucidation of external meaning of the Qur' an which is clear, whereas, ta 'wll refers to hidden meaning of a verse which contains various possible descriptions. Commentators elucidate nearest of these meanings based on their conscience and reasoning. This elucidation may not be definite and perfect, but it may be more manifest and strong, and hence the f:zukm on the categoric decision of the Book of Allah is stated as no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah (3:7)



Methodologies of the Qur' anic exegesis (ta/sir) are generally divided into three kinds.13 They are exegesis




based on the methodology of transmission {tafsir bi-ima'thur or tafsir bi-i-riwayah1 exegesis based on opinion or knowledge (tafsir bi-i-ra'y or tafsir bi-idirayah) and exegesis based on indication (fafsir bi-iisharah).14 It is relevant to discuss these methodologies comprehensively to understand their significance and importance.


Tafsir bi-l-ma'thur refers to either the commentary of the Qur' an by the Qur' an, or the commentary of the Qur'an by the Sunnah of the Messenger (s.a.a.s) or the commentary of the Qur' an based on what has been transmitted by the Companions.I5 Naturally, the explanation of the Qur' an by the Qur' an and the explanation of the Qur'an by the Messenger (s.a.a.s) are the two highest sources of tafsir, which cannot be compared to any other source. Since the Companions witnessed the revelation, they were reliable in the explanation given by them. Besides this, it is true that they were educated and trained by the Messenger (s.a.a.s) on various aspects. The following are few examples of the commentary by the Qur' an, commentary by the Messenger (s.a.a.s) and commentary by the Companions.

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1. Commentary On The Qur'an By The Qur'an For instance, it appears in the Qur' an: "Lawful unto you (for food) are all four footed animals, with the exceptions named" (5: 1); but the explanation on the exceptions named is mentioned in another verse 16 which says: "Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked in the name of other than Allah" (5:4) Another example is that in Surah al-baqarah, it is stated that: "then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord turned towards him" (2:37) and the explanation of the words of inspiration received by Adam elsewhere stated in the Qur' an: 17 "they said Our Lord We have wronged our own souls if thou forgive us not and bestow not upon us thy mercy, we shall certainly be lost" (7:23) Furthermore, the Qur' an states that "Indeed We sent it down during a blessed night (44:3) and the explanation of a blessed night is further enlightened elsewhere as the night of power, where by it says: We have indeed revealed this (message) in the Night of Power( 97: 1) The above discussion shows that the Qur' an itself is self-explanatory in many respects.

2. Commentary On The Qur'an By The Sunnah The Messenger (s.a.a.s) was the best expounder of the



Qur'an for he has been spiritually appointed to illuminate the revelation to humanity. Besides the commentary of the Qur' an by the Qur' an, the Messenger (s.a.a.s) further interpreted and explained to People to understand the Qur'an. When the Messenger of Allah was asked about some verses, the answers he gave became authoritative explanations of those verses.I8 For instance when the verse "(It is those who believe and confuse not their beliefs with wrong - that are (truly) in security, for they are on (right) guidance)" (6:82) was revealed, people found it difficult to understand and comprehend its impact and therefore asked the Messenger (s.a.a.s) as to who of them did not commit wrong against himself. The Messenger (s.a.a.s) made it clear that here it meant associating others with Allah, which has been characterized elsewhere in the Qur' an as a mighty wrong. 19 "For false worship is indeed the highest wrong doing: (31: 13) When the verse " ..... And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread" (2: 187) was revealed, Adi b. Hatim took ropes, one white and the other black and looked at them, but failed to distinguish one from another. Then he went to the Messenger (s.a.a.s) in the morning and narrated to him about what had happened. The Messenger (s.a.a.s) explained that what was meant by it was day and night. 20 When the verse "Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers, especially the middle prayer" (2:238) was



revealed the Companions asked the Messenger (s.a.a.s), who in reply to it said that the middle prayer was nothing but 'a~ar prayer. 21 Likewise, the verse "those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray" (I :7) has been explained as the Jews and Christians. Certainly these two methods of interpretation of the Qur' an by the Qur' an and the Sunnah of the Messenger is undoubtedly the best quality of ta/sir. Indubitably it should be accepted. As for the first, Allah (s.w.t) is the most knowledgeable regarding the ta/sir. The Book of Allah is the most reliable and truthful word, for it does not bring about nugatory and vain. As for the second, the Messenger (s.a.a.s) stressed the indispensability of the Qur'an and designated the significance of the expositions and explanations as found in the verse which says: " .....And We have sent down unto thee (also) the message that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is sent for them (16:44)

3. Commentary On The Qur'an By The Companions Third section of the category of ta/sir bi-l- rna thur remains here for discussion, which is also reliable and acceptable, for the Companions lived with the Messenger and grasped original and unadulterated J


meaning, witnessed the revelation and were fully aware of the circumstances of revelation.22 They possessed serenity and felicity of their soul and flawlessness of their nature, elevation of their position in eloquence and fluency and other credentials. They had high qualification on the correct and perfect understanding of the word of Allah (s.w.t). They were also conscious of the mysteries of the Qur' an than anyone else. On acceptance of tafslr from them, Ibn KathIr reported, "If we do not find the commentary of the Qur' an in the Qur' an itself, or in the Traditions, we should turn to the sayings of the Companions who knew about it the best. This is because of the fact that they had witnessed the revelation and were aware of the conditions and the true nature of understanding right knowledge and good deeds which they possessed".23 It is found that the Companions did not comment on the Qur' an as a whole, but they did comment on some verses .. AI-Hakim stated that the interpretation of the Qur' an by the Companions was based on their direct witnesses of the revelation whose jurisdiction and legal opinion was traceable in ascending order to Mu1)ammad (s.a.a.s). It is more or less legally corresponding to the (wdlth of the Messenger due to its authenticity and hence it is accepted as ma'thur.24 Opinion on the interpretation of the Qur' an by the Successors is divided among the scholars. Some observe that it is maJthur for it was received from the


Companions (opinion).25




view that it is ra 'y

To sum, tafslr bi-I-ma'thur is one among the most reliable and magnanimous kinds of tafslr available to day. It is proper and desirable to have prior verification of the narrations while citing it in the tafslr bi-l- ma'thur. Al J:lafi~ stated that the majority of tafslr bi-l- ma'thur had certainly valid transmitters, but there were narrations indirectly by others and attributed to the Companions. Some of these tafiislr also reflect the stories of the Apostles with their nature and revealed Books and the miracles. Hence, it is necessary to verify and examine the narrations before they are taken as authentic.

Weak Narrations In Al-Ma 'thur As it is stated earlier, the commentary of the Qur' an by the Qur' an and the commentary of the Qur' an by the Sunnah traced back to the Messenger are the principal features of tafslr bi-l- ma' thur. There is no ambiguity in believing and accepting it. It is regarded as the highest quality and degree of tafslr by many scholars.26 As for the commentary of the Qur' an based on transmission by the Companions and the Successors, there is a possibility of weak directives according to the opinions of some scholars. The following four causes are stated by them. 27 Mixing of authentic traditions with unauthentic



one and their attribution to the Companions and the Successors with the fabricated chain of narrations have been observed. Narrations are occasionally filled with Isra'ilite (Jewish and Christian based) stories in which many of them are superstitious which would adulterate the doctrine of Islam, if they are unidentified. Some adherents of various extreme madhiihib (schools) concocted and fabricated some sayings and created heroes who have been ascribed to some Companions. The shiite sect played its role in falsifying many traditions as well as sycophants of 'Abbasides who ascribed them to Ibn 'Abbas without any rationale. Some atheists (zaniidiq) engaged in secret machinations and conspired against the Companions and the Successors, as they operated against the Messenger (s.a.a.s) in the prophetic traditions through fabrication. This was the strategy adopted to devastate the Religion through generating intellectual dissension among the people. Therefore, it is necessary to have precaution and thorough verification of those sayings and narrations which are attributed to respectable Companions and the Successors.

Prominent Commentators Among The Companions AI-Suyiitl


the names of ten prominent



Companions who were well versed in the field of ta/sir.28 They were, four orthodox caliphs, Ibn 'Abbas, Ibn Mas'iid, Ubay b. Ka'ab, Zayd b. Thabit, Abii Miisa aI-Ash 'arl and' Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr. Among the four caliphs, majority of the traditions have been transmitted by 'All b. Abii TaUb especially among the Shiite circles. Transmission by the remaining three was insignificant. The primary cause for such an insignificant number of transmission of these three (Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman) , according to al-Suyiitl, was owing to the short period of their rule and preoccupation with problems arising in the governance of the state and precedence of their death. On the other hand, they lived in the midst of the society dominated by the 'ulamii' of Islam and highly knowledgeable scholars of the book of Allah (s.w.t), because they accompanied the Messenger, they were well acquainted with the secrecies of the revelation and conversant with its meaning and legislations. As far as 'All was concerned, he lived for a long time whereby Islam had expanded in the peninsula and opened new territories to Islam. In addition, many non Arabs embraced the newly established religion, and a new posterity developed among the sons of the Companions who were in need of studying the Qur' an and understanding its mysteries and wisdom. Therefore, in this period, numerous questions were asked about many aspects of the Qur' anic sciences and consequently in response, a number of narrations were related on the authority of



'Ali which occupied central position in the tafslr literature. In this way, the riwiiyah of 'Ali became more significant in the tafslr.



Abd Allah b. Abbas

'Abd. Allah b. 'Abbas, the first cousin of the Messenger (s.a.a.s) embellished this ummah in the field of Qur'anic exegesis. The Messenger (s.a.a.s) preferred him over many, for he was intelligent and famous for versatile genius. A fact that could be recalled here is that once the Messenger (s.a.a.s) beseeched Allah (s.w.t) for him. "Alliihumma Faqqihhu Fl al-Dln wa 'Allimhu al-ta 'wU" and he is called the interpretor of the Qur'an.29 'Abd Allah b. Mas'Lid mentioned that he was the most learned Companion on the interpretation of the Qur' an. Further, he has been testified and recognised for his superfluity .. He was vigorous and prime in his youth so much so that he was mutually competing with elder companions and expropriating their surprise with his brilliance at such a young age. It was related that Ibn 'Abbas was the best of the community. He, as Goldziher has observed, was the father of the tafslr.30 His knowledge of the Arabic language and literature too was very extensive, which is illustrated by the following incident. Nafi b. al-Azrad once asked him a large number of questions relating to the Qur'an asking him to provide corroborative evidence from Arabic



poetry. Ibn 'Abbas gave the meanings of two hundred words and a verse of pre Islamic poetry for each in proof of his contentions.31 The Companions of the Messenger (s.a.a.s) took pride of Ibn 'Abbas and eulogised him. Among them was 'Ali bin Abii Talib who said about his tafsir. "It was as if he were looking at the unseen through the veil".32 There was also Ibn 'Vmar who said: Ibn 'Abbas was the most knowledgeable person of the community of MuJ:1ammad (s.a.a.s) about what was revealed to him.33 Once 'Vmar entered into the consultative council along with other elderly Companions in order to consult them. At this time a crucial issue was raised about the presence of Ibn 'Abbas to him. Some exclaimed; why did this young boy enter into the council with us while we also have children elder than him in age? Immediately 'Vmar called Ibn 'Abbas and asked the Companions about the explanation of chapter al na.Jr: "when comes the help of Allah and victory". The Companions remained silent. Then Ibn 'Abbas said that it referred to the time of the death of the Messenger of Allah. 'Vmar endorsed that interpretation and thereby justified the presence for young Ibn 'Abbas. It is significant that there is no explicit mention in the chapter about the death of the Messenger (s.a.a.s). What the statement of Ibn 'Abbas implies is that when victory comes everything is completed, meaning that the Messenger (s.a.a.s) had completed his task and mission.



Hence, nothing lay in store for him except to return to the mercy of Allah. One might be inclined to call this ta 'wll rather than tafsir.34

The Fellows

or Ibn ,Abbas

Many venerable and respectable fellows were prominent in the field of tafsir who obtained the knowledge of tafsir from him after the demise of the Messenger (s.a.a.s). According to them, he was the most prominent and influential personality interms of etiquettes, culture and directives. 'Umar b. al-Khattab, Ubay b. Ka'ab, 'Ali b. Abu Talib and Zayd b.Thabit were the noted comrades of him.35 They learned from him the knowledge of tafsir. Pupil's

or Ibn


Many tiibt'un (Successors) received the knowledge of tafsir from Ibn 'Abbas and transmitted it to others. They were Sa'id b. Jubayr, Mujahid b. Jabr, Tawus b. Kisan al- Yamani, 'Ikrimah, 'Ata bin Rabah and others.36 These personalities were considered sponsors of the school of tafsir of 'Ibn Abbas. They developed the Qur' anic exegesis.

'Abd Allah b. Mas ud Among the famous, recognised and eminent authorities



of the Companions of the Messenger (s.a.a.s) on the interpretation of the Qur'an after Ibn 'Abbas was 'Abd. Allah b. Mas'ud who was one among the earliest to embrace Islam at the age of six. He was a servant of the Messenger (s.a.a.s) employed for clothing his shoes and going around with him. Through this contact with the Messenger (s.a.a.s), he became better cultured and aware of /:laial and /:lararn. He was a well known authority in the field of taf~'ir and the Companions had agreed concerning his vast eruditions. When asked about Ibn Mas'ud, 'All said: He knew Qur'an and the Sunnah, and his knowledge was the book of /:ladith and tafsir. That is why, he has been regarded the most eminent personality after Ibn 'Abbas.37



(TAFSIR BI-L-RA'Y) Having discussed briefly the exegesis based on the methodology of transmission, let us now look into the methodology of tafsir bi-I-ra'y (exegesis based on opinion). This kind of tafsir is also called tafsir bi-I dirayah (exegesis based on knowledge) or tafsir bi-I rna 'quI for the Commentators of the Qur' an solely rely on their independent legal opinion and not the transmission of the Companions and the Successors.38 Their reliance is on language, Arab customs in deriving the meaning, the knowledge of colloquial style and



consciousness of imperative sciences which are indispensable and required for those who wish to interpret the Qur'an. Besides these aspects the knowledge of grammar, rhetoric, etymology, Principles of Jurisprudence, knowledge of the circumstances of the revelation and other aspects are considered by Commentators.39

Meaning Of Tafsir B-il-Ra'y Here the term ra 'y refers to ijtihad (independent judgement) which is based on correct principles, healthy and intact regulations. It is incumbent upon a Commentator to be aware of the treatment of the subject in the interpretation of the Scripture. Moreover, it is not absolutely referring to al-ra 'y (opinion) or al-hawa (desire) or the interpretation of the Qur' an according to ones own whims, fancies and inclinations.40 AI-Qurtubj expressed whoever pronounced whatever emanated in his mind and his impression on the Qur' an or conjectures deliberately on the basic tenets and principles, he would be a blameworthy, erroneous, and unacceptable personality to people.41 It is appreciable to bear in mind the tradition which says: whoever belies deliberately, about me, his seat is in the fire; whoever expresses his opinion on the Qur' an, his seat is in the fire; (TirmidhI); and, whoever expresses his opinion on the Qur' an, he is at fault. The above Traditions (af:zadith) are interpreted in



two ways. Firstly, whoever says miscellaneous of the Qur' an not knowing about the Companions and the Successors he would be a bitter adversary to Allah (s.w.t), and secondly, whoever says anything otherwise to the Qur' an knowingly and justifies it as truth his seat would be in fire. Al-QuI1ubi was inclined towards the second opinion, whereby he said that it was stronger than the previous and accurate in terms of meanings.42 Then he proceeded, as for the ftadlth, some people of knowledge (ahl-al- 'ilm) propounded that it referred to desire (al-hawii), which means, uttering something on the Qur' an corresponding to his desire, and he who did not consider the opinion of the leaders of the worthy and venerable ancestors he would be wrong.

KINDS OF TAFSIR BI-L -RA'¥ Tafslr bi-l-ra 'y is divided into two categories: praiseworthy tafslr (tafslr mamdufta) and blameworthy tafslr (tafslr madhumumahl.



It is an interpretation of the Qur' an based on ijtihiid far away from ignorance and deviation. It is in consonance with rules of the Arabic language.43 It relies on proper methodology in understanding the passages of




the Qur' an. 44 Whoever interprets the Qur' an based on his opinion,but is absolutely committed to the comprehension of the stipulations and relied on the meanings of the Qur' an, then this interpretation is permissible and acceptable. This is appropriately called praiseworthy tafslr or lawful tafslr.



It is an interpretation of the Qur' an without proper knowledge, that is, it is based purely on one's desire with utmost ignorance of rules and regulations of grammar and the canonical laws of Islam. Further, it is an interpretation of the word of Allah based on one's vicious school and the deviationist innovation.45 This kind of tafslr is blameworthy or false tafslr. By briefly analysing these two kinds of tafsir, we can conclude that the author of the praiseworthy tafslr is linguistically efficient and has expertise in the style; proficient in allied subjects and well acquainted with rules of the canonical laws of Islam. Whereas, the false and the blameworthy tafslr is the one whose author's source of reference is only longing and caprice. He is conspicously ignorant and in error. Ignorance of such interpretation (tafslr) reflects in the meanings such as the Qur'an says :"Yawma Nad'ij Kulla Uniisin Bi Imiimihim"which according to the mufassir means that "Allah will call people on the Dooms day with the names of their mothers".




Moreover, this ignorant mufassir interpreted "alImam" as "al- Ummahat" and speculated that the term "al-Imam" is the plural of "al-Umm", inspite of it being not found in the Arabic grammar, because the plural of "al- Umm" is "al- Ummahat" as it has been clarified elsewhere in the Qur' an as "Wa Ummahatukum aUati An;lawnakum "and the plural of "alUmm" is not "al-Imam". Both literally and technically this is a false explanation. The acceptable meaning of this verse here is the Apostle who has been followed by his ummah.46 If a commentator does not master the rules of the language and basic principles of Arabic, he cannot do justice to translation and commentary. Likewise, false understanding of objectives of legal system would result in ignorance and deviation.

Principal Sources Of Blameworthy Tafslr Al Zarkashl stated four principal sources of blameworthy tafsir which had been transcribed by AI-Suyuti in his book al-itqan.47 They are as follows :1. Narration of the Messenger (s.a.a.s) despite it is weak and mawdi1' (spurious). 2. Consideration of the sayings of the Companions. 3. Absolute regard for the language, for the Qur' an was revealed in Arabic.


4. Consideration of those phenomena that are in conformity with the meaning of the Arabs.

Qualifications Of A Commentator A Commentator of the Qur' an is required to possess adequate qualifications and profound knowledge of various sciences. To be one among the recognised personalities of tafsir, he should possess acquaintance in all fields. It is mentioned that whoever says anything on the Qur' an on his own, his seat is in fire. Hence, experts have formulated certain fundamental pre-requisites that are indispensable for a Commentator. AI-Suyiiti mentioned the following basic requirements before one commences to write commentary to the Qur' an.48 1. Knowledge of Arabic language and its rules (Knowledge of grammar, syntax, etymology and morphology); 2. Knowledge of Rhetoric; (ilm al-ma 'ani, al-bayan, metaphors)


(science of

3. Knowledge of the principles of Jurisprudence; (khas, 'am, mujmal, mufa~~al) 4. Knowledge of asbab al-nuzul; (background circumstances of the Revelation)




5. Knowledge of nasikh (Abrogative) (Abrogated)

and mansilkh

6. Knowledge of the Reading and Recitation ('ilm alqira at) J

7. Gifted knowledge('ilm-al-mawhibah) Without indepth understanding of the language of the Qur' an, there are many chances in which one could commit distortion and misinterpretation as a commentator.49 Therefore, linguistic command over the Arabic language, such as insighting morphology and etymology is the foremost for a commentator. How does one comprehend the meaning of the verse without knowing vocabulary and idioms. If a Commentator does not accept literal meaning of a word, he would be at fault and bring forward controversial commentaries. For instance, the Qur' an says: "Marajal Bahrayni

Yaltaqiyiin Baynahuma Barzakhun La Yabghiyan" which means: (He has let free the two bodies of flowing water meeting together (55: 19) One of the ignorant Commentators exercised his opinion purely free from linguistic aspect to interpret the above verse whereby he said that ba/:lrayn referred to 'All and Fatimah. The Qur'an further says "Out of them come Pearls and Coral" (55:22). The pearls and coral have been interpreted as I:Iasan and I:Iusayn. This interpretation is purely based on opinion which is quite contrary to the external meaning of the words.50 Thus, the knowledge

of grammar is absolutely




necessary for every Commentator, for the meaning of a word changes greatly even with a change of vowels. For instance, the Qur'anic verse "Innama Ya.hsha Alliiha Min 'Ibiidihial 'Ulama' "with nasab for the consonant "ha" of the word AIHih and raJa' for hamzah of the word al- 'ulama', then the meaning would be correct. The meaning of the verse is "those who fear Allah would be 'ulamii' (and not others)". He who increases knowledge of Allah increases fear of Allah. However, if the vowels are contrary to what has been stated as before, then the meaning would be distorted.51 The knowledge of rhetoric and science of metaphor are also indispensable for those who wish to produce commentary on the Qur' an, for it is necessary to be in compliance with inimitability of the Qur' an. The understanding of inimitability and the miraculous aspects of the Qur' an would not be possible to accomplish without the knowledge of rhetoric. For instance the Qur'an says: " Hunnii libiisun Lakum Wa An/urn Libiisun Lahunna" which literally means "(They are your garments and ye are their garments)" (2: 187) In reality the verse is metaphorical. The dress conceals the genitals of the human being and adorns him. Thus the man and woman, each of them is like a dress for his spouse, decorating, perfecting and beautifying each other. It is the masterpiece of art, poetry and the metaphorical diction. If a man interprets this



verse with external (literal) meaning, it would be a distortion. For example, the French translation of this verse whereby the Commentator, due to lack of knowledge of these sciences, translated with the most common meaning without knowing the secret dimensions of it. It is translated: "they are pants for you and you are pants for them, " for the word libas is known as albantalun (pant). Likewise, it is falsely understood and the organisation of poetry and the expression of the Qur'an have not been perceived with the most suitable meaning.52 The remaining branches of knowledge are also equally significant. They contribute in the proper understanding of the Qur' an. They are usul al-fiqh, asbab al-nu?ul, al nasikh wa-al mansukh and 'ilm alqira: at. Every science is required for a mufassir in order not to commit mistakes in the commentary.

Gifted Knowledge (lim Ai Mawhibah) It refers to the knowledge imparted by Allah (s.w.t) directly through mystic institution:53 " ..... We had taught knowledge from Our Presence" (18:65). Man inherits this knowledge of metaphysics, which opens his heart to understand His secrets and attributes as it is said " So fear Allah for it is Allah that teaches you" (2:282). This is the fruit and the result of piety and sincerity. Obtaining this is impossible for those whose hearts are filled with innovation, ostentation,



arrogance, pride and lust for the worldly life and an inclination to insubordination as Allah says: "Those who behave arrogantly on the earth in defiance of right-them will I turn away from My Signs. Even if they see all the signs they will not believe in them ..." (7:146) AI-Suyup stated that perhaps one might build up this gifted knowledge and claim that this phenomenon was not in the omnipotence and aptitudes of human beings. It is not an ambiguity and the way to acquire perpetration of the requisite procedure for it is through action, abstinence and asceticism. Then he said that 'ulum al-Qur' an and other allied sciences were like shoreless oceans. The sciences described earlier are instruments and catalysis for each and every Commentator and none is entitled to claim this position without possessing comprehensive knowledge of this subject.54 He who interprets the Qur'an without possessing the above mentioned qualification, he would be a Commentator divorced from the legitimate rights to claim suitable place in the history of Qur' anic exegesis. The conditions or qualifications stipulated by the 'ulama should be strictly observed so as to maintain and obtain high quality in ta/sir. Allah (s.w.t) presented the Qur' an in a very simple, easy manner and commanded the people to contemplate and remember as it is said. "Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur'an (47:24) J



Standard Tafsir The following are the methodological expressions of Shayk Mu1).ammad'Abduhu pertaining to quality characterestics of tafsir. To maintain a high standard in the Qur'anic commentary, one should have deep and thorough acquaintance with the following branches of knowledge. 55 1. Understanding the nature and true sense of the terminologies which are frequented in the Qur' an based on the usage of ahl al-Iugha (the scholars of language) 2. Knowledge on the sublime procedure. This would be received with the practice of al-kalam (eloquence) and its application. 3. Knowledge on human sciences: divine and heavenly practice; and the procedure in the evolution of nations with its differences of power, weakness, iman, kufr, might and meekness. 4. Knowledge humankind. 'Umar who clear if one

towards the guidance of the Qur'an for It has been narrated on the authority of said: The merit of Islam would not be did not know about jahiliyyah life.

5. Knowledge of the biography (sirahl of the Messenger (s.a.a.s) and his Companions. Knowledge and action in the religious and worldly affairs.




Phases Of Tafsir AI-Suyiiti quoted on the authority of Ibn Jarir through many sources and also on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas who said that there were four phases of tafsir.56 They were: (l) Tafsir known to Arabs; (2) Tafsir~ the ignorance of which no one would be excused; (3) Tafsir known to 'ularna' and (4) Tafsir known to Allah (s.w.t) alone.

Opinions Around Tafsir Bi-l Ra'y After having examined the meaning of tafsir bi-I ra'y and its conditions for acceptance, it is appropriate to mention some of the opinions of 'ularna' in conjunction with it. Some express that it is permissible and provide evidences in favour of their views, while others mention that it is impermissible and forbidden and substantiate their argument by quoting evidences. AI-ra 'y refers to al-ijtihad and therefore tafsir bi-Ira 'y refers to tafsir al Qur' an by ijtihad.57 After acquiring the knowledge of tafsir for Arabic words and its methodology in expression, knowledge of Arabic terminologies and vocabulary with sound evidences, the scholars have difference of opinion in admitting tafsir bi-I-ra 'y. There are two groups. FIRST: Non permissibility of tafsir bi-I-ra'y for it is suspended from al sarna 'u (transmission).



SECOND: Permissibility of tafsir bi-l-ra 'y with stipulated conditions as described above.

Evidences Of Prohibiting Tafsir Bi-[-Ra'y The prohibitors of ta/sir bi-l-ra'y provide rationale and evidences in favour of their proposition,58 among which some are as follows:Firstly, ta/sir bi-l-ra'y is an utterance about AlHih (s.w.t) without adequate knowledge. Its prohibition is based on the verse: "....And saying things about Allah of which ye have no knowledge" (7:33). Ibn Taymiyyah expressed that interpretation of the Qur' an absolutely based on opinion was /:laram (prohibited).59 Secondly, the Traditions of the Messenger (s.a.a.s) contain serious warnings and threats for those who interpret the Qur' an based on his opinion and speculation. "Beware of any statement of one except what you know, whoever belies me deliberately, his seat is in the hell fire and whoever says on the Qur' an with his opinion his seat is in the hell fire (TirmidhI). Thirdly, Allah says, " And we have sent down unto thee (also) the message that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought" (16:44). Therefore, it is propounded that the Messenger (s.a.a.s) was authorised to explain the Qur'an and not others.


Fourthly, the Companions and the Successors have restrained and kept themselves aloof from saying anything on the Qur' an based on their opinion.

Evidences Quoted By The Permitters Of Tafsir Bi-I-Ra'y Those 'ulama' who permit ta/'llr hi-l-ra'y provide evidences in favour of their proposition.60 Some of which are as follows :1. Allah (s.w.t) urges Mankind to contemplate, meditate and ponder over His signs and made people devotees in the recitation of the Qur'an. "(Here is) a Book which We have sent down unto thee, full of blessings that they may meditate on its Signs and that Men of understanding may receive admonition" (38:29); "Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur' an or are their hearts locked up by them?" (47:24). Thus, contemplation and recollection will not be possible except by submerging in the mysteries of the Qur'an and ijtihad in understanding its meaning. 2. Allah (s.w.t) bisects the humankind into two sections namely public and 'ulama'. There is a command in the Qur'an to refer to ahl al- 'Um (those who extract laws) at the time of dispute. " .... .If they had only referred it to the Apostle or to those



charged with authority among them the proper investigators would have tested it from them (direct) (4:83). Ai-istinba! here refers to the extraction of intricate hidden meanings by the penetration of intellect, and it is with ijtihad and submerging in the secrecies of the Qur' an, like the swimmer sinks into the bottom of the ocean to extract corals and pearls. 3. Had tafsir bi-i- ijtihad not been permitted and lawful, ijtihad would have been categorically unlawful and many laws would come to a standstill. 4. Truly, the Companions read the Qur'an and occasionally differed in the interpretation. For, it is a known fact that the Messenger had not interpreted the whole Qur' an to them. However, he explained to them the foremost and important aspects of each phenomenon and omitted others in order for them to comprehend according to their intellect and ijtihad. Had he explained everything, as others propound, there would not have been differences and diversities among the Companions on the interpretation of the Qur' an. 5. Another important aspect is that the Messenger (s.a.a.s) made special du 'a for Ibn 'Abbas "Allahurnrna Faqqihhu Fi-ai-Din wa 'Allirnhu aiTa'wil" (O! Allah, strengthen him in the Religion and educate him ai-ta 'will. Had ai-ta 'wil been confined to ai sarna 'u (narration), and ai-naqi


(transmission) like al-tanzil (revelation), then there would not have been any rationale in making special du 'a for Ibn 'Abbas. Therefore, it may be concluded that al-ta 'wll refers to al-tafsir bi-l-ra y waal ijtihad (tafsir based on opinion and ijtihad). J

METHODOLOGY OF EXEGESIS BASED ON INDICATION (AL- TAFSIR AL-ISHARI) Third methodology of exegesis is al-tafsir al-ishari (exegesis based on indication). It is appropriate to critically analyse and examine it so as to know the conditions for its acceptance. In addition, the views and opinions of 'ulama J, commentators and theologians on this methodology are further studied. Then, a critical analysis is made on the interpretation of al-tafsir alishari in the following chapter.

Meaning Of Al- Tafslr Al-Ishiiri According to many scholars, al-tafsir al-ishari is an interpretation of a verse of the Qur' an disregarding its external meaning. It is also stated that an interpretation of the Qur'an is based on indication (isharah) which is perceptible to some knowledgeable and conscientious persons or appearing to the people who possess good behaviour and fight with their nafs. Their insights have been illuminated by Allah (s. w. t).



Thus,they have accomplished and realized the secrets of the Qur'an.61 It is further mentioned that the esoteric and profound meanings were infilterated into their mind through divine ilham. It implies that Allah (s.w.t) opens the divine path by amalgamating external and internal sources of knowledge of the verses of the Qur'an. It is further expressed by some Commentators that it referred to an interpretation of other than external and perceptible meaning of the text. To them, the ability to comprehend the meaning of the Qur' anic verses was not bestowed upon every ordinary human being. Rather it was accomplished only by those whose heart had been inspired and conquered by Allflh (s.w.t). Allah illuminates clear vision and inserts ideas into the heart of His sincere servants who are gifted with an art of understanding and realization, as it is said by Allah (s.w.t) in the story of Hidr with Moses.62 "So they found one of Our servants on whom We had bestowed mercy from Ourselves and whom We had taught knowledge from our presence" (18:65) Al-tafslr al-isharl is not an acquired knowledge which is normally acquired through research and learning; but it is the knowledge imparted directly by Allah (s. w .t) through mystic institutions due to constant remembrance of Allah, impact of taqwah (piety), istiqamah (religious uprightness) and ~'ialaf:z(probity and righteousness) as it is said by Allah "So fear Allah, for it is Allah that teaches you" (2:282)63


Opinions Of 'Ulama' There are conflicting views on the phenomenon of altaf~'tr al ish{lrL Some permitted and approved while others prohibited, Some perceived it as a sign of completion and perfection of tman (faith) and as genuine and unadulterated knowledge with positive contribution, while others regarded it as deviation, perversion and digression from the Religion of Allah (s.w.t). In fact, the subject of al-tafstr al-ishart is critical and required to have deep insight and profound immersion in the reality to reveal the objective of this kind of taf\'tr. The methodology of this kind of tafstr is viewed by some as an adherence to desire and a gamble in the interpretation of the verses that are similar to the activities of al-ba!iniyyah. The batiniyyah's interpretation of the Qur'an is declared as apostasy and hetrodoxy by the scholars of Sunni school. The batiniyyah's further declare that the word of Allah (s.w.t) cannot be comprehended and grasped by Man, for it is the word of the Creator, the Omnipotent. According to al-ba!iniyyah, the word of Allah (s.w.t) has inner notions and secrecies, witticism, anectdote, intricacies and remarkable things that are valuable for humanity. Those who conceive al-tafstr al-ishart as permissible provide evidence from the /:tadtth literature by citing a Tradition recorded by Bukhari in his ~a/:tt/:t,in the chapter bab al-tafstr.64 They quoted specifically




the interpretation of Surah al-naoJr by Ibn 'Abbas. Upon request made by 'Umar, the second Khalifii to interpret the said chapter, which was the last chapter revealed, Ibn 'Abbas narrated that it indicated the end of the messenger's life on this earth. The same meaning was not perceived by other elder Companions, but 'Umar endorsed it. This interpretation of the verses by Ibn 'Abbas was not comprehended by others. This is regarded as al-tafsir al-ishiiri (exegesis based on indication) which was inspired by Allah (s.w.t) to whom He wills among His servants. According to him, it was an intimation for the Prophet's approaching the death.

Opinion Of AI-Nasafi AI-Nasafi expressed his views while commenting on al-tafsir al-ishiiri in his book al- 'aqii id that the text of the Qur' an was based on external symptom and renunciation of this would bring serious implications so much so that the meaning of the verse would become closer to heresy and apostasy. 65 J

Opinion Of AI-Taftazanl AI- Taftazani in his commentary to al- 'aqii id expressed that the batinites were regarded as heretics for they assumed that the text of the Qur' an was not J




based on externality, that is, its real meaning was concealed and known to none except Allah (s.w.t).66 Their purpose, as it has been mentioned, was to ostracize and reject Sharz'ah completely by presenting such an interpretation ignoring the external aspects. He further added that researchers who had similar views had stated that the text was based on its externality. Inspite of this, they still hold, there are light indications on intricacies which are particularly illuminated to people of good conduct and excellent behaviour. 67 Reconciliation and arbitration of these two are a sign of completion of iman and unadulterated knowledge. From the above discussion, the difference between al-tafsir al-ishari (tafsir by some experts) and al-tafsir al-bafini( tafsir of batinites) is quite obvious. The first group of peoples are those who advocated al-tafsir al-ishari do not prohibit external meaning but rather viewed it as fundamental and significant. They mentioned that it was indispensable to possess the knowledge of external aspects as a first phase. As for batinites, they advocated the external aspects were not the only basic objective, but internal design and purpose were also equally important.68 By fostering such an interpretation, Sharz'ah has been rejected and legal injunctions falsified by this denomination. This is undoubtedly apostasy in the religion, as it is confirmed by Allah (s.w.t). "Those who pervert the Truth in Our Signs are not hidden from Us. Which is better? he that is cast into the fire or he that comes safe



through, on the day of judgement? Do what ye will. Verily He seeth (clearly) all that ye do" (41:40).

Opinion Of AI-Suyii~l AI-Suyliti mentioned on the authority of 'Ata,69 that the tafsir (exegesis) from this group (al-tafsir alishiirl) on the words of Allah (s.w.t) and the words of the messenger Mul;1ammad (s.a.a.s) with its Arabic meaning was not at all deviated from its external meaning; however, the external meaning of the verses is naturally and automatically understood. By the grace of Allah, they have an intrinsic perception, comprehension of the verses of the Qur' an and the Traditions of the Prophet. Therefore, it should not prevent anyone from receiving the meaning of the verses from these scholars. In addition, to conclude it as a controversy or a deviation from the meaning of the word of Allah and the word of Mul;1ammad (s.a.a.s) is not proper. However, it would be only regarded as a deviation, if they were to advocate that there is no other meaning for a particular verse except one. They only determine the external meaning with reference to the subjects and the understanding of Allah's secrets on what has been inspired to them. Mul;1ammad'Ali al-Sablin! mentioned that this was a word of justice. The true learned man has put in its proper place and combined the external text with the arriving



secret meaning which radiates from the heart of the believers who are acquainted with Allah (s.w.t), as was the situation of Abu Bakr al-$iddiq and 'Vmar. No wonder that Allah (s.w.t) imparts al-J:likmah (wisdom) to whomsoever He wills, and puts the understanding to whoever He chooses. This is what the Qur' an informs while describing the story of Dawud and Sulayman, concerning the matter displayed to them, and everyone judged with his wisdom, which differed from one another, as Allah says, "And remember Dawud and Sulayman, when they gave judgement in the matter of the field into which the sheep of certain people had strayed by night. We did witness their judgement". "To Sulayman We inspired the (right) understanding of the matter to each (of them) We gave judgement and knowledge; it was our power that made the hills and the birds celebrate our praises, with Dawud. It was we who did (all these things)" (21 :78-79)

Conditions For Acceptance AI-taffiJir al-ishiiri is not acceptable according to scholars of 'uIum al-Qur' an if the following conditions are

not fulfilled. It must be free from: 1. inconsistency and contradiction with an external meaning of the verses of the Qur' an.7° 2. accusation

and assumption

that its purpose




design is unique without external meaning.?! 3.

silly and inconsiderate ta 'wlilike the interpretation of batinites. The Qur' an states, "And Sulayman inherited Dawiid" which is interpreted as Imam 'Ali inherited the Messenger. Such an interpretation is false and it ignores the external meaning.72


contradiction and conflict with legal and intellectual aspects.?3


confusion when making people understand meaning.?4


Non-fulfilment and violation of anyone of the above conditions would nullify the validity of al-ta/sir al-ishiiri. In this case, conclusion may be drawn that such interpretation is corresponding to caprice, and subsequently it is considered unlawful. In the final analysis, such commentary is unacceptable.

Opinion Of AI-Zarqanl This is imperative to bring here a valuable opinion of Mu1)ammad 'Abd al-'A~im al-Zarqani pertaining to alta/sir al-ishiiri. There is far-reaching, considerable wisdom and truthful advice for those who are gifted with the sense of hearing and understanding. He mentioned that some people created dissension


in responding to the studies of the indications, ideas and thoughts. In their heart, the Kitdb and Sunnah were something which were different. However, Islam as such is nothing but ideas and thoughts emerged from the same source of interpretation. They never confined to the commandments of Sharz'ah nor honoured the rules of Arabic language in understanding the texts.75 More calamitous and worse than the above was that they imagined and played with people as though they were the people of Truth who accomplished the goal and formed communication link with Allah (s.w.t) resulting in receipt of commandments. They claimed that whatever was advocated by them was from the everlasting existence of Allah (s.w.t). The batinites have caused great damage and disaster to Islam through their erroneous interpretation for they had demolished Sharz'ah from its very foundation.76 It is pertinent as expressed by him to advise Muslim brothers at this juncture on what is understood of aI-ta/sir aI-ishdri and to admonish them from falling into this net. It is also relevant to remind that they should dissociate themselves from the parables of such tortuous and perverse aI-ta/sir aI-ishdri, because everything in it is sensitive and excitable. The major content of what was incorporated and amalgamated in it were nothing but imagination and falsehood.77 MUQammad 'Ali aI-Sabum, after having referred to



the opinions of other scholars on al-tafs'ir al-ishdri expressed that it had a supporting ground from a legal point of view, however, there are some false and erroneous interpretations that have been integrated into it.78 Some people had inserted ideas, thoughts, interpretations, and propositions of batinites into the ta/sir without complying with the stipulated conditions formulated as a cornerstone by the 'ulamd'. Their action was haphazard and at random in this field. Although the action was haphazard, it awakened everybody's conscience on the presumptions and arrogant behaviour of some people toward the Book of Allah and the interpretation that based on whims and passions or whispers of Satan. They claimed wholeheartedly that al-tafsir al-ishdri was permissible, despite the fact that it was a deviation, insolence and impudence, for it was a distortion and obliquity of the Book of Allah. It was an attitude corresponding to an action of heretic batinites. Supposing, it was not distortion of words but certainly it was a distortion of meanings. 80 It is worth citing the observation of Shaykh alIslam Ibn Taymiyyah who rightly asserted that half physician would decay the body of man and half 'dlim (scholar) would destroy the Religion. Allah tells the /:laqq (reality) and guides towards the straight path.8! PRE-REQUISITES FOR THE QUR'ANIC EXEGETE Academic or intellectual research is the basic foundation for real and true knowledge, which is in fact beneficial to



students and other readers. It's fruit is desirable. It is a pleasant food for intellectual thought and growth of reason. Therefore, the research in 'uIum al-shar'iyyah (Sharl'ah Sciences) in general and the Qur' anic exegesis in particular is one among the significant contributions which is necessary to maintain the conditions and etiquettes. The scholars of 'iIm-al-tafslr mentioned some essential and basic pre-requisites for a mufassir in order to get his commentary recognized.82 They are briefly as follows :-

1. Correct Doctrine Truly, the doctrine (aqldah) has tremendous influence on the personality, thought, soul and action of a person. Many who claim to be mufassirun become victims of distortion of the text, faithlessness and deceptions in transmitting the message. Anyone who belongs to the said category compiles a book on taf'ilr, his first attempt is to differ with 'aqldah (doctrine) and project his false sect (madhhah) to alienate and divert the people from following the followers of salafis (the ancestors). The au thor of the Qur' anic exegesis should expound the Qur' anic text in a way acceptable to the scholars of ahl-al-sunnah wa al-jama 'ah, avoid putting forward his own views and ideas in the exegesis, be fully conversant with the Arabic lexicon and rules of grammar, avoid apologetic approach in expounding the



Qur' anic injunctions and institutions, have an implicit faith in the life after death and the rewards and retributions promised in the Qur'an as divine pronouncements instead of taking them merely as symbolical expressions; have studied all classical and modem commentaries in depth, be able to expound the significance of the Qur'anic injunctions in regard to polygamy, slavery, dowry, execution of the apostates, blood-wit and so forth., hold the same belief about the throne ('arsh and kursl), the preserved tablet (law/:z al-mahfCq,), angels, prophethood (nubuwwah), revelation (wa/:zy), from the earlier and final divine scriptures as entertained by the earliest Muslims, and to have no qualms about the bodily lifting of the prophet 'Isa to the higher regions.

2. Freedom From Whims And Fancies Whims and fancies instigate the followers of a specific sect to have their sect victorious over others. They convert the people with their mesmerised and elegant speech by using melodious attractive expressions, like the practice of al-qadariyyah (a theological school of early Islam asserting man's free will) Rafidites (a Shiite sect.), Mu'tazalite and others of similar thought and orientation.

3. Interpretation of the Qur'an by the Qur'an The interpretation of the Qur'an should be, as a priority, based on other verses of the Qur'an. We have cited


few examples of this nature during our discussion on ta/siT bi-l- ma thuT. J

4. Interpretation by the Sunnah Sunnah is the expounder and expositor for the Qur' an. It explains the Qur'an. The Qur'an mentions that al:zkiim derived by the messenger MUQammad (s.a.a.s) has been from Allah (s.w.t). "We have sent down to thee the Book in truth that thou mightest judge between men, as guided by Allah" (4: 105); Allah further mentions that Sunnah is a clear demonstration for the Book. " ..... And We have sent down unto thee (also) the message that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought" (16:44). Hence, Imam AI-Shafi'} (Allah's satisfation for him) said that everything that had been ordained as I:zukm by the Messenger (s.a.a.s) was indeed, as what he had understood from the Qur'an. Such examples are many in the Qur' an. AI-Suyiiti has arranged such examples in the last chapter of his book.

5. Interpretation Successors

By The Companions


If the interpretation is not found in the Sunnah, it is necessary to refer to the views of the Companions, for they lived with the messenger, witnessed the revelation and were aware of everything about the Qur' an.



If the interpretation of a specific subject or an aspect is not found elsewhere in the Qur' an or in the Sunnah or in the sayings of the Companions, then the scholars referred to the views of the Successors, such as Mujahid bin labar, Sa'id b. lubayr, 'Ilaimah, mawlah of Ibn 'Abbas, 'Ata bin Abi Raba1:l,J:lasan al-Ba~ri, Masriiq bin al-Adja'u, Sa'id bin Usaiyyib, AI-Rabi'u bin Anas, Qatadah, Al-pai)ak, Ibn Muzahim, and others among the Successors. Some Successors received entire commentary of the Qur'an from the Companions. They putforward some extraction of laws and deductions. Therefore, it should be relied, for everything has been correct and authentic transmission.

6. Knowledge of Arabic Language. The Qur' an was revealed in the language of Arabs. Its understanding is based on the explanation of terminologies and lexical meanings of the words in their true sense of the term. Mujahid stated that it was not appropriate for anyone who believed in Allah and the Hereafter to speak on the Book of Allah, if he was not well versed and versatile in the languages of the Arabs. REQUIRED ETIQUETTES The Commentators of the Qur' an are required to possess and manifest excellent conduct, good culture, wonderful and remarkable etiquettes. The scholars have emphasized such etiquettes for every




They are as follows :-

1. Good intention and genuine purpose Actions are based on intentions. The Sharz'ah sciences are fundamental for a mufassir, in order for the goal to be achieved. Prevailing trait is useful for Islam. Benefit of the knowledge is essential and sincerity is necessary.

2. Good Character Mufassir in IsUim enjoys significant status of being an educator and tranior in a Qur' anic school. Thus, he is required to possess good personality and reflect an excellent behaviour. He should sprinkle the fountain of knowledge to his students, which should be beneficial and useful. He who reads his tafslr or listens to his words should be able to obtain genuine knowledge through his presentation. This would be possible only by possessing and manifesting remarkable and praiseworthy moral character.

3. Role Model Certainly, the knowledge finds acceptance from enterprising people in multiple ways. Good example and right attitude would make a Commentator an excellent model for people. His model would endow people to

48 •••••••



find solution to the problems of Religion and society. Some rnufassirun misled the people from receiving knowledge from the over-flowing ocean of knowledge due to their different character and non implementation of their propositions.

4. Truth and accuracy in transmission Mufassir should not speak or write anything except by conforming what has been narrated so as to be in safe place from misplacement of the diacritical marks, misspelling, distortion and grammatical mistakes.

5. Humility and Tenderness Vain glory and pomposity of knowledge are essentially the impediments and inaccessible in the path of training and education. Such traits would transform a scholar into a useless personality whose knowledge would bear no fruit. Hence, he is required to be humble and tender hearted in a natural way.

6. Sense of honour Mufassir should keep himself away from silly talk, and should not be afraid of sulfiin (Ruler) and maintain his dignity at all times.


7. Frankness in truth The most meritorious jihad (endeavour) is the true word infront of despotic sultan (Ruler). Hence, there is a strong need for frankness in truth even infront of autocratic and authoritarian dictators.

8. Good manner should earn veneration and dignity in his public manifestation, sitting, occupation, gaits and manners of walking without unnatural manner.


9. Perseverence and deliberateness should not enumerate the word but explain it and demonstrate the articulation (of a sound) of its alphabets.


10. Good preparation and rendition of a work It is appropriate to begin with the mentioning of circumstances (asbab) of revelation, then meanings of words, commentary of phrases and idioms, explanation of rhetoric, and desinential inflection, then explain the general meaning to relate with general life which is experienced by people in his age. Finally, he should proceed to extract legal injunctions.




Tafsir Of Jewish Origin (Isrii'iliyyiit) The 'ulama' defined the term isra' iliyyat as the narratives and information of Jewish and Christian origin which had infilterated into Islamic Community after lot of Jews and Christians accepted Islam.g4 The Jews had their religious culture which originated from the scripture Torah. The Christians had their religious culture which originated from the Gospel. Many Jews and Christians joined hands under the banner of Islam with their religious culture. In the process, the People of the Scripture imported their civilization, culture, philosophy and integrated them into Islamic doctrines.85 The Qur' an constitutes numerous things, some of which also appeared in both Torah and Bible, particularly those relating to the stories of the Apostles and information of the antecedent communities. But the Qur'anic narratives summarize the statement exposed to the people as lessons and admonitions without mentioning in detail such as history of the incidents and battles, names of the countries and the personalities. As for the Torah, it describes everything elaborately with full explanation and so is the New Testament. When the People of the Scripture embraced Islam, they carried with them their religious culture such as historical information and religious narratives. They, while reading the narratives of the Qur' an, after they have become Muslims, used to mention casually the



particularities found in the Jewish Scriptures. The Companions were hesitant in accepting everything from them. They also stopped them face to face what they heard from them, in compliance with the saying of the messenger MuJ:1ammad (s.a.a.s). "Do not trust People of the Scripture and not belie them, and say we believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us". Frequent dialouge was held between the Companions and the People of the Scripture on all topics particularly the details of stories and narratives extracted and pronounced from these Scriptures. The Companions only accepted some of it as long as the material did not conflict with 'aqidah (creed) and conformed with a/:lkiirn (legal rulings).85 Then they would include such things in their conversations. The Companions, as it was reported did not take anything from ahl al-kitiib (People of the Scripture) when it concerns the talsir of the Qur'an except a little. When the period of the Successors came, the number of people who embraced Islam increased among the People of the Scripture, and it was reported that the Successors took much from them. The Commentators who came after the Successors were also more zealous and passionate with the material of Jewish origin. A lot of material from the Jewish origin was used in the narration by four personalities, namely 'Abd Allah bin Salam, Ka'b al-Ahbar, Wahab bin Manbah, and 'Abd al Malik bin 'Abd al-'Azlzl bin Jary .•87 Views



of the scholars on the f:tukm and trust differed with them. The major difference moves around Ka'b al-Ahbar. 'Abd Allah bin Salam was knowledgeable and the highest among them in rank. Bukhari and others among the traditionists depended on him. Despite this, there are allegations levelled against him as it has been in the case of Ka'b al-Ahbar and Wahab bin Manbah.88 The Messenger (s.a.a.s) has already admonished Muslims against this source of knowledge :Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The People of the Scripture (Jews) used to recite the Torah in Hebrew and they used to explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. On that Allah's Apostle said: "Do not believe the People of the Scripture or disbelieve them, but say". "We believe in Allah and the revelation given to us". (2: 136)89 Likewise, Ibn Mas' ud, the well-known Companion is reported to have said: "Do not ask the ahl-al-kitiib about anything (on tafsir), for they cannot guide you and are themselves in error"Yo Some classical commentators of the Qur' an had occasionally took help of Isra'ilite traditions, though cautiously for elucidating a certain event of which only a particular aspect of the happening finds a mention in the Qur'an.


PECULIARITIES IN INTERPRETATION OF THE QUR' AN I-SUYiiP mentioned on the authority of AIKirmanl who had compiled a book covering two volumes entitled al- 'aqii 'il-wa-al-gharii' ib. This book is an accumulation of sayings and opinions with regard to the verses of the Qur' an which are not recognised and acknowledged by the experts of tafsir. Neither such remarks are permissible nor could one rely on it, for these are the utterances of deviationists. One should be very cautious of such mischievous and erroneous interpretation. In the succeeding pages some examples of this kind of exposition of albiiJiniyyah sect are quoted in order for people to be aware of the trivialities and vanities that have unconsciously infiltrated into Islamic community due to blind imitation, adamant attitude, obsession and adoption of hawiih (desires).


Interpretation Of AI-Ba{iniyyah 1. Allah (s.w.t) says" /fa mlm 'ayn sin qiif" (42: I) in the Qur' an. The Qur' anic abbreviated letters were interpreted by classical Commentators as referring to the secrets whose meaning was known to Allah alone.) However, it is interpreted by al-

54 _______


ba!iniyyah differently which is unacceptable and strange, rather objectionable. According to Batinites, /:la refers to war with 'All and Mu 'awiyah, mim stands for wilayah banI Marwan, 'ayn refers to wi/ayah al-Abbasids, sin stands for wi/ayah al-Safyaniyyin and qaf was model of Mahadi and so forth. These are distorted interpretations of deviationists. Such interpretations are not acknowledged by ahl-al-sunnah wa-aljama'ah.2 There is no evidence in the ljadith literature for such interpretation. 2. The Qur' an says "Wa lakum Ii al ql~a~l lJayiitun ya iili al- albab" which means "(In the Law of Equality there is (saving of) life to you; a ye men of understanding)" (2: 179). Al-qi$Q$ is falsely interpreted as stories of the Qur' an. 3 This is unacceptable and invalid both literally and technically. It further exhibits utmost ignorance of a Commentator. 3. The Qur'an says, " ....Our Lord! lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear" (2:286). This verse was interpreted as love and affection.4 Further, it was said by them that the human beings do not possess power which is a false interpretation. 4. The Qur' an says, "The same Who produces for you fire out of the green tree, when behold ye kindle therewith (your own fires) (36:80). Green tree has




been interpreted as referring to Ibrahim and fire (ndr) as light (nilr) which denotes MulJammad (s.a.a.s).5 This interpretation is one among the strange meanings which does not have confirmity with the meaning of Arabic language.

Shiite Interpretation

In Shiism, there are numerous denominations

and sects. Some transgressed the limits and dissipated the frontier in showing their unfathomable affection for Imam 'Ali. Some are obsessed with their doctrine, while others are found to be moderates. It also appears that there are some who had obsession with the spirit of partisanship. These people are heading towards becoming infidels. Ibn Saba', the malicious Jew, who did not embrace Islam except with an objective to trick, plot artfully and conspire against the believers, is regarded as a leader of this group. Among them some believed that the Archangel Jibra'il committed serious offence during the process of revelation. According to them, the Angel was entrusted to carry the message in order to deliver to 'An, but it unconsciously made an error and inadvertently descended upon MulJammad (s.a.a.s). This group was not only hostile but declared war with the Muslims and regarded them diametrically opposed to their 'aqidah.. They created great controversy over this issue till it became evident that 'An himself launched an attack on them, fought with them and evicted them from their kufr (unbelief) and devia-

56 •••••••



tion (t;lalalah).6 As mentioned, there are moderate people who maintained a balanced approach and possessed objective understanding. They neither collapsed nor fell down in the chasm of disbelief; however they differed with ahl-al-sunnah wa-al-jama 'ah in many respects. They firmly believe on the precedence of 'An over all other Companions of the Messenger (s.a.a.s). To them, 'Ali was remarkable, superior and deserving than the rest of the Companions. They also claimed that 'An was the only legitimate and appropriate candidate for khilafah for he belonged to ahl-al-bayt, and three other orthodox and rightly guided caliphs have deprived 'An of his right to assume khilafah.7 Numerous accusations have been levelled against the orthodox caliphs. They were regarded as plunderers and exploiters. There are people who, amidst this crisis, silently perferred 'AlI and took oath of allegiance without criticising the three khulafa'. Some were displeased and hurled plenty of vilifications on the two caliphs Abii Bakr and 'Umar. (May Allah (s.w.t) forgive us for mentioning that). They expressed and accused the two as deviationists, inspite of the fact that they were honoured by Allah (s.w.t) in many verses and made them the special Companions of the Messenger (s.a.a.s).8 Allah (s.w.t) says, "Truly ye are in a doctrine discordant, through which are deluded (away from the




Truth) such as would be deluded" (51 :8-9). Some Shiite scholars, while interpreting the above verse 8, in the chapter 51, expressed that whoever was honest, straigtforward and loyal to wilayah 'All, he would enter Paradise and whoever was not in agreement with wilayah 'All, he would enter Fire.9 That is why, People have differences with wilayah 'All and his family. As for the verse nine in the same chapter, it is interpreted that the pronoun of this verse, (hu) refers to 'All and hence it is said that whoever is deluded away from wi/ayah 'All, he would be deluded away from the Paradise. 10 Allah (s.w.t) says, "concerning what are they disputing? Concerning the Great News about which they cannot agree" (78: 1-3). The above verse is generally understood to be either the message of Resurrection or the Hereafter,but questions of its meaning were raised from various schools of thought among the Jews, Christians and other communities. Al nab' al-a~fm (the Great News) may also be translated as Great Message or Message of supreme. In that case, it would refer to the Qur' an or the Message of Revelation or the Message of the Prophet, about which there was great contention in those days. 11 Some Shiite scholars interpreted this statement of the Qur'an differently. They propounded that 'All bin

58 ________


Abu ralib was reported to have said to his Companions: "By Allah (s.w.t), I am the Great News on which all nations differed with their tongue. By Allah (s.w.t), what is for Allah (s.w.t), News greater than me. And No, By Allah (s.w.t) there is no sign greather than me".12 This interpretation is strange and of course false too. It is absolutely contrary to riwayah (transmission). However, such interpretations are projected as interpretation based on dirayah or ra 'y (opinion) or isharah (indication). But, to the Commentators of ahl al-sunnah wa-al-jama 'ah, such interpretations are absolutely blameworthy, peculiar, strange and erroneous. It is also contradictory to the external and lexical meaning. In the opening of Surah Maryam, Allah (s.w.t) says, kaj ha ya 'ayn ~ad. These are mysterious alphabets comprehended to be referring to mysterious thing whose meaning is known to Allah (s.w.t) alone.13 However, there are other interpretations too. It has been interpreted that these alphabets are from Unseen news or messages. Allah (s.w.t) informed them to his servant Zakariyyah (s.a.a.s) and then clearly elaborated it to His Messenger Mul:tammad (s.a.a.s). It has also been reported that Prophet Zakariyyah prayed to his Lord to educate him with five names. Allah (s.w.t) sent down Jibra'Il and educated him. When Prophet Zakariyyah heard the names of




Mul)ammad (s.a.a.s), 'All, Eitimah, I:Iasan, it worried him and he was in a state of distress and his sorrow became obvious. When the name I:Iusayn was mentioned, tears came out of his eyes and he was suffocated and finally he realized he had difficulty in respiration. He said one day, "My Lord, it did not dilapidate and deteriorate me when you mentioned four of them and I consoled myself with these names and cleared myself from my worries. When You mentioned the name of I:Iusayn, my eyes became full of tears .... Then Allah (s.w.t) informed him this story". He said: kaj, ha, ya,_'ayn, ~ad. Kaf is interpreted as Karbalah, ha refers to annihilation, ya refers to Yazid (who has been regarded by some as tyrannical and unjust), 'ayn refers to his thirst and ~I)adrefers to his perseverence. When Prophet Zakariyyah (s.a.a.s) heard this, he did not come out of the Mosque for three days and the People were forbidden entry into the Mosque. 14 The above interpretation was invented by Shiites. Nevertheless, it is viewed as extreme which distorts the original meaning and its significance.

Al-Ithna 'Ashriyyah Interpretation says "Thumma la yaqqii tafathahum" which means "Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them" (22:29). The term tafatha is referring to superfluous growth of one's body such as nails, hair etc which is not per-

1. The

Qur' an

60 •••••••



mitted to be removed may be removed on completed: that is the interpreted as meeting

in a state of i/:lram. These the tenth day when /:la}} is rite of completion. But it is of Imam 'AlL 15

2. The Qur' an says "Yawma tarjufu al- rajifah tatba 'uha al-radifah" which means "One day everything that can be in Commotion will be in violent Commotion, followed by oft-repeated. (Commotions)" (79:6). Al-ra}ifah is interpreted as l:Iusayn and al-radifah as his father 'AlL 16 3. The Qur' an says "Innamii waliyyukum Alliihu wa rasiiluhu wa alladhlna amanli" which means "Your (real) friends are (no less than) Allah, His Apostle and the (fellowship of) Believers" (5:55). The fellowship of Brothers has been interpreted as the leaders of ithna 'ashriyyah. This is false and deviation. 17 Qur' an says "La tattahidhu ilahayni which means "Allah (s.w.t) has said,Take not (for worship) two gods" (16:51). The above verse is literally and absolutely clear. It expresses not to take two gods. There is no difference of opinion with regard to its understanding. But it is interpreted as not to take two Imams, for the Imam is only one. He is none other than 'All. IS

4. The


5. The Qur' an says " Mathalulladhlna kafaru bi

rabbihim a 'maluhum ka ramadin ishtaddat




bihi al-rihu"

which means "The Parable of those who reject their Lord is that their works are as ashes on which the wind blows furiously on a tempestuous day" (14: 18)19

This verse is interpreted as those who did not accept wilayah of 'All, their actions are null and void. Their deeds are regarded as ashes which is carried away by the wind on the tempestous day. says, " .... Yii laytanl kuntu which means "(Would that I were (mere) dust)"(78:40). Since Abi Turab has been the nickname of 'Ali, the word turab here in this verse has been interpreted as referring to 'Ali. 20

6. The



Al-Sab'iyyah Interpretation There is a notable sect among the many sects of Shiism which proclaims and believes that 'Ali is in the cloud and interpret thunder as his voice and lightning as luster or sheen of his whip or his smile. He who hears the noise of thunder among the followers of this sect says: O! the leader of muJminun, peace be upon you.21 One of the conjectures is that they believe that MuJ:1ammad(s.a.a.s) will one day return to this world. The following verse is cited as an evidence for their proposition.22 "Verily He Who ordained the Qur'an



for thee, will bring Return ....." (28:85)

thee back to the place


The Qur' an says, "Inna 'aradna al amanata wa i!amalaha al insanu innahu kana ;.aliimanjah'iila" which means "We did indeed offer the trust to the Heavens and earth and the mountains. But they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof. But Man undertook it, He was indeed unjust ('{,aium) and foolish (jahul) (33:72) .23 The terms '{,aium and jahui were interpreted as referring to Abu Bakr as unjust and foolish by the above sect. 24 It is the most mischievous interpretation. The Qur' an says: "Kamathal al shaitiini idh which means "Their allies deceived them), like the Evil one when he says to man deny Allah" (59:16)

qala lil insani akfur"

Here, the term ai-shay/an has been interpreted as 'Umar.25

Interpretation Of Al-Bii!iniyyah is a sect that does not conform to the external meaning of the verses of the Qur' an. The sect claims that the Qur' anic verses have both internal and external meanings. There is a strong belief that aibatin refers to the internal or secret aspects of the words and verses.





Examples The following are the examples of few verses of the Qur' an quoted to see how the Batinites have mischievously interpreted them whose interpretations are unacceptable and strange. 1. The Qur' an says: "Qiila alladhina la yarjiina

liq'ii'ana a'ti biqur'iinin ghayri hadha aw baddilhu" which means "Those who rest not their hope on their meeting with Us say, Bring us a Reading other than this or change this" (10: 15) The term "baddilhu" has been interpreted as "baddala 'aliyyan" which means they changed 'Ali.26 2. The Qur'an says: Innalladhina

amanu thumma kafaru thumma amanu thumma kafaru thumma izdiidu kufran which means "Those who believe, then reject Faith, then believe (again) and (again) reject faith and go on increasing in unbelief - Allah will not forgive them, nor guide them on the way" (4: 137).

This verse has been interpreted by them as having reference to Abii Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthman. Furthermore, they accused that these three initially believed in the Apostle, but rejected him afterwards. When they were asked to put their trust in wiliiyah 'Ali, they believed in 'Ali by taking bay'ah (oath of allegiance) then rejected after the death of the




Messenger Mu4ammad (s.a.a.s). (unbelief) eventually increased.27

Likewise, their kufr

The above interpretation is totally biased and unacceptable, rather a poisonous interpretation. 3. The Qur'an says:"Inna Alliiha ya'murukum an tadhbalJu baqaratan" which means "Allah commands that ye sacrifice a heifer" (2:67) The word baqarah has been interpreted as referring to 'Ayesha, the beloved wife of the Messenger (s.a.a.s). This is a deviation of the literal meaning of the word of the Qur' an. 28

Mu'tazalite Interpretation They are a notable sect among the Muslims whose interpretation of the Qur' an exceeds proper boundary. They prefer and postulate the meaning as applicable only to reason and intellect. Allah (s.w.t) says, "And to Moses Allah spoke direct" (4: 164).Their interpretation, which is different from others, had absolutely disregarded the transmitted opinions of ancestors whom many commentators have accepted. This sect also denies the characteristics of Allah's speech (kaliim) in this verse. Their interpretation is seen in correspondence with their ideology. In such circumstances, consideration is given to false,




artificial and imitated meaning to suit their purpose. For instance, some of them view that Moses was the one who spoke to Allah (s.w.t), and not Allah (s.w.t) who spoke to Moses. In this Qur' anic statement, the Arabic word Allah is the subject (fa 'it) and Miisa is the object (ma/ul bihi) in the eyes of grammarians and Commentators. But, the Mutazilite's proposition is that the term Allah (s.w.t) is object and Miisa is subject. If the latter interpretation is accepted, then the meaning of the above verse will be diametrically opposite, which is not accepted and recognised by ahl alsunnah wa-al-jama 'ah. While others among the followers of the school of Mu'tazilites also busy themselves in the distortion of the meaning of the verses as a sign of mutual assistance. It is advocated that the term al-takllm is derived from al-kalm with fataJ:zafor kaf and sukn for lam. In such case, the word, al-takllm refers to "the wound" and eventually the verse would mean that Allah (s.w.t) wounded Moses with trials, tribulations and temptations of claw in his adolescence.29 Such proposition is viewed strange and alien to its original meaning.

Kharijite Interpretation They are a denomination among the Muslims and are regarded as fanatic and extreme in approach because




their interpretation of some of the verses of the Qur' an is fanatical. They viewed or interpreted the verses of the Qur'an without well-balanced harmonious contemplation or well established vision except frivolous and desulatory, exasperated, embittered and rashness fanaticism. Fanaticism, bigotry and ignited zeal had pushed them to demonstrate their unjust and boiled sayings to the people on the verses of the Qur' an. They synthesize the meanings of the verses based on their confined and narrow understanding of the Qur' an and consequently their deduction projects deviation. Some Kharijites postulated that a perpetrator of a major sin (kabii'ir) was a kiifir (infidel).30 The evidence for this proposition is from the Qur' anic statement, " ....Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah, those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of His Creatures" (3:97) Based on this verse, conclusion is drawn that the one who leaves the obligation of ~ajj (pilgrimage) is regarded kiifir (infidel).31 Allah (s.w.t) says, " .... If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed,they are (no better than) unbelievers" (5:44). The Kharijites interpretation is that every perpetrator of rna'~iyah (disobedience or sedition) no matter what its degree, either shirk (polytheism) or ghayra shirk, he is a kiifir. This is because, he perpetrates the sin which will be judged other than what has been revealed by Allah (s.w.t).32




Allah (s.w.t) says, "It is He who has created; and of you are some that are unbelievers, and some that are believers. And Allah sees well all that ye do" (74:2). They inferred from the obvious meaning of this verse that there exists no licentious tresspasser (fasiq) . . According to this sect, the human beings are categorised into two categories, mu'min and kafir. In other words man is in between fman and kufr. Therefore, there is no one except a mu'min (believer) or kafir (infidel).33 Analysis of these interpretations of the verses of the Qur' an by Kharijite and its comparision with the views of ahl-al-sunnah wa al-jama 'ah reveals that there is no confirmity between them. It is observed, that the interpretations are extreme and not moderate and thus create digression among the Muslim ummah.



The concept of al-ta~awwuf (Sufism) was fundamentally and essentially established on the foundation of zuhd (asceticism, abstinence) and inqita'u (separation, severance) for 'ibadah (adoration) to Allah (s.w.t). Nevertheless, in the course of time this thought has been characterized by transformation and modification, due to innumerable reasons such as ignorance, fanaticism, obsession, and a tendency to stray to other fantasies and conceptions, poisioned with strangeness and deviation, irregularity and assumed sayings and intel-





lectual escapades which remove the person from the true path of Islam. Among the adherents of Sufism, there are some, whose interpretations are in correspondence with their excessive and exaggerate desire and whims. Their madhhab in such interpretation, is found solely on desire or perverted opinion. Ibn 'Arabi, Hallaj and Abu 'Abd-al-RaQman aI-SalmI and others among the Sufis belonged to the above said category.34 Allah (s.w.t) says, "But keep in remembrance the name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him wholeheartedly" (73:8). Ibn 'ArabI interpreted: "Know yourself; Remember Him and do not forget Him. Allah (s.w.t) will forget you". He, departed from his concept of wahdah ai-wujud in the sense that Allah (s.w.t) is He who is existent and that every existing thing manifests itself for Him. Ai- Wujud entirely is confirmed of only One the Absolute found by Allah (s.w.t), and everything around Him among the created things and the Universe is fashioned and moulded obviously from His manifestation. On account of that, AI-Hallaj was saying: I am Allah (s.w.t). Even Ibn 'ArabI was defending the worship of 'iji (calf) by Bani Isrii'l1.35 The entire interpretation of the above verse is strange and peculiar and not acceptable in other circles except sufi circles. Another example: Allah (s.w.t) says, "He has let free the two bodies of flowing water, meeting together; between them is a barrier which they do not




transgress" (55: 19-20). The above verse is generally interpreted as two bodies of water, salt and sweet meeting together, yet keep separate as if there was a barrier or partition between them. But Ibn 'Arabi, while interpreting this, expressed that the first sea refers to the primordial matter which means corporeal (Physical) body, and the second sea refers to rul:z (spirit) and the barrier which is in between refers to the animal soul (al-nafs al-haywiiniyyah) which stands in the middle between the rul:z (spirit) and body. This barrier interrupts entirely the primordial matter and the rul:z to meet as equal to one another.36 While comparing the former interpretation generally made by other Commentators with the latter, we observed that the latter has been peculiar and the scholars viewed it as false and distorted. Precisely, the science of Oceanograpy reveals that there exists two kinds of water in the ocean, one is salty and bitter and the other is sweet and palatable, and between them there is a barrier and eventually one does not pollute the other. Another agreeable interpretation is that it refers to the estuary of Great rivers and the sea where the phenomenon of barrier is observed by scientists and admirals in the modem age. Hence, we find there is a complete disagreement between the interpretation of the Qur' an by majority of the scholars and the interpretation of the Siifi scholars on the above mentioned verses.


EARLY SCHOOLS OF EXEGESIS (TAFSIR) s time passed, need for the Qur' ank Commentary or exegesis was realized to be indispensable by the ummah on those verses which the Companions had not commented upon. The Companions were dead, and the tiib(un (Successors) took upon themselves this great marvellous responsibility.


The Commentators(mufassirun) among the tiib(un (Successors) were huge in number. Their total number exceeded the quantity of the Companions of the Messenger (s.a.a.s) and the number of notorious and reputed Commentators among the Companions were not more than ten, as it has been mentioned by Al-Suyiiti. 1 Their names had been mentioned in the preceding pages. As for the Successors, their number increased, for they were profoundly concerned with the Book of Allah (s.w.t). There were, according to historians, generally three main schools of Qur' anic Commentry,2 which had developed by the end of the first half of the first century of hijrah.

MAKKANSCHOOL The first category of the Commentators

belonged to




(Makkan School).3 They received and understood the science of commentary ('Um al-tafslr) from the popularly known Ibn 'Abbas who had many students. AI-Suyut1 narrated on the authority of Ibn Taymiyyah who said: More learned among the people in the field of tafslr (exegesis) were the people of Makkah, because they were the comrades and contemporaries of 'Abd Allah bin 'Abbas.4 Many were prominent, and there emerged some extra-ordinary people such as Mujahid, 'Ata, 'Ikrimah, Tawus and Sa'ld bin Jubayr.5 An abstract of the biography of these conspicuous and well-known commentators is worth presenting in the succeeding pages. I consider it relevant and appropriate, because in the Qur' anic exegesis, their opinion is highly acceptable and regarded as the most authentic.6 ahl-Makkah

Mujahid bin Jabar al-Makkl He was born in 21 A.H. and his nickname was Abu alI:Iujjaj al-MakkI. He was one of the most prominent and wellknown 'ulamii in the Qur' anic exegesis? He was a special student with a superior knowledge, great respect was given to him,therefore, Imam Bukhari and many others had relied mostly on his commentaries.8 J

He received commentary and explanation of the Book of Allah (s.w.t) directly from Ibn 'Abbas. He grasped, gradually understood and contemplated each and every verse and acquired the art of recitation with

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incantation. He further questioned and inquired on the meaning and mysteries of the verses. He digested the legal injunctions so much so that Imam al-Nawawi narrated, "When the commentary comes from Mujahid and that's all with it and no more" which implies, suffice it to say that there is no need to search other's opinion pertaining to any issue if it has been narrated on the authority of Mujahid.9 He died in 103 A.H. Once he uttered about himself: I demonstrated the Qur'an to Ibn 'Abbas thirty times. In another narration about him, he is reported to have said; I demonstrated the Qur' an to Ibn 'Abbas three times; I stopped at each and every verse and asked him about it and in what connection it was revealed, how and where, etc. 10



'Ata bin Abl Rabah

He was born in 27 A.H. and brought up in Makkah. He was a jurist (mufti) 11 and he belonged to the Successor group. Imam Abii I:Ianifa expressed his opinion euologising Qatadah and said: There were four prominent Successors. 'Ata bin Abi RabaD is the most prominent of all. 12 He died in Makkah in 114 A.H. at the age of eighty seven and was buried there. 'Ikrimah He was born in 25 A.H. Imam AI-Shafi't stated that no one remained more prominent pertaining to the Book




of Allah (s.w.t) than 'Ikrimah. He exhibited his profound scholarship in the field of Qur' anic exegesis. He was a slave of Ibn 'Abbas and acquired the Knowledge of the Qur'an and Sunnah from him. He once said "Indeed I explained what is between the Books and everything I spoke on the Qur' an was from Ibn 'Abbas. 13 From the book I'lam, there is a description of his personality and it is as follows: 'Ikrimah bin 'Abd Allah al-barbarl-al-Madanl, a tab(i (the Successor), was one among the most learned people in the field of exegesis. Roughly, three hundred people have narrated about his brilliancy out of which seventy were the Successors. He left for Morroco because the ruler of Madina wanted him. Later he returned to Madina and died there in 105 A.H. He was also a famous poet. 14

Tawus bin Kaysan al- Yarnan. Born in 33 A.H., he was famous in the field of the Qur'anic exegesis. He was a symbol of memory, eminence, extraordinary qualities and intelligence. IS He possessed good qualities of godliness, asceticism and righteousness. He was an adorer and ascetic. It has been reported that he performed (lJajj) pilgrimage forty times. Ibn 'Abbas narrated about him: Indeed, I think Tawus was one among the Companions of the Paradise. 16





He was among the senior Successors who possessed expertise in the Religion. He was also a narrator of the Traditions and a practical ascetic. He was courageous enough to admonish Caliphs and Kings during his time. 17 Persian by descendant, but he was born and brought up in Yemen. 18 He died in Muzdalifa while he was on pilgrimage in 106 A.H. and Hisham bin 'Abd al Malik, who was present on this occassion, conducted janazah prayer for him. He was known for his refusal to be in the vicinity of Kings and princes. 19

Sa ld bin Jubayr Born in 45 A.H., he was among the famous and elderly Successors in terms of knowledge and piety.20 He was a famous commentator of the Qur'an. He had a towering personality and was lofty, knowledgeable and brilliant. Sufyan al-thawri said: Take al-tafsir from four: Sa'id bin Jubayr, Mujahid, 'Ikrimah' and alI;)a1)ak. Qatadah said: Sa'id bin Jubayr was more learned than anyone in tafsir.21 He was a symbol of memory, whose outstanding characterictic was that he used to memorize what he heard. Ibn 'Abbas testified to his memory so much so that he once stated: "See how you speak about me, you certainly memorized numerous traditions from me".22 A1)mad Commentary

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