From Academic Kids

A tafsir (tafsīr تفسير, also transliterated tafseer, Arabic "explanation") is Qur'anic exegesis or commentary. Someone who writes tafsir is a mufassir (mufassir, plural mufassirīn).


Sources of Tafsir

The five sources for commentary of the Qur'an are:

  1. The Qur'an itself. This is the most superior form of tafsir, because the Qu'ran explains itself.
  2. The Hadith. Muslims believe that God has sent the Prophet Muhammad for the reason of explaining and clarifying to people the Qur'an. Much tafsir of the Qur'an can be found in books of Hadith, under titles such as "Meaning of Qur'anic verses." This is the second most superior form of tafsir, because the Prophet of God is explaining it.
  3. The reports of the Sahaba. The Sahaba or Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, knew the Prophet, and therefore have better insight into the Qur'an. If there is a consensus of the Companions on a certain verse, then it is followed, if not then later scholars interpret which has the better argument using Islamic principles.
  4. After the reports of the Sahaba or Companions, is the reports of those who learned from the companions. These people grew up in an environment with people who had known the Prophet, so their insight is the next in line of the sources of tafsir.
  5. Reason. The last and final source, and the weakest of all sources, to explain the Qur'an is using reason. By reason it is meant as deductive logic and evaluation of arguments to reach a conclusion.

Prohibited Tafsir

It is prohibited to perform Qur'anic tafsir using solely one's own opinion. This is based on the authenticated hadith of the Prophet which states it is prohibited.

Major Mufassireen

Major tafsirs of the Qur'an come from

  • Ibn Kathir: Tafsir ibn Kathir - A classical tafsir of the Qur'an, it can be considered a summary of the earlier Tafseer Ibn Jarir (at-Tabari). It is especially popular in that ibn Kathir uses 'hadith' or traditions of the Prophet Muhammad to explain each verse and chapter of the Qur'an
  • Imam Fakhr ud-Deen ar-Razi: "Mafateeh ul Ghayb" also known as Tafseer Kabir. A volumous tafsir that covers many aspects including science and medicine, ibn Taymiyyah once critically said of this tafsir that it "contains in it everything but tafsir"
  • Imam Abu Abdullah al-Qurtabi: "al-Jaami' li Akaam il-Quraan" by the famous Maliki Jurist of Cordoba. This tafsir, published in 10 volumes is a commentary upon the verses of the Qur'an that deal with legal issues. Although the authour was a Maliki he also presents legal opinions of other major schools of Islamic jurisprudence thus it is popular with jurists from all of the schools of Islamic law.

One volume of this tafsir was translated into English by Aisha Bewley.

  • Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi "Ahkam al-Qur'an" Known as 'Qadi ibn al-Arabi' (ibn Arabi the judge)to distinguish him from the famous Sufi ibn Arabi he was a Maliki jurist from Andalusia (Muslim Spain) His tafsir was published in 3 volumes and contains commentary upon the legal rulings of the Qur'an according to the Maliki school.
  • al-Jasas "Ahkam al-Qur'an" A Hanafijurist whose commentary upon the Qur'an is based upon the legal rulings of his own school. This was published in 3 volumes and remains popular amongst the Hanafis of India, the Middle East and Turkey
  • Imam Al-Ghazali: A Thematic Commentary of the Qur'an - Another classical tafsir by a great Sunni Imam who practiced tawassuf (the act of Sufism, not the Sufi sect)
  • Allamah Tabataba'i: "Tafsir Al-Mizan" - A 20 volume commentary on the qur'an using a methodology of explaining the qur'an through the qur'an.
  • Ismail Hakki Bursevi "Ruh al-Bayan" Published in 10 volumes in Arabic it was written by Ismail Hakki Bursevi, the founder of the Hakkiyye Jelveti Sufi order.
  • Tafsir al-Baydawi. Considered a shortend version of the above it has been printed in 2 volumes. In Turkey it is often published with marginal notes by an unknown Turkish Sheikh called 'Konyawi' in 7 volumes.
  • Tafsir ibn Atiyyah. A tafsir that is most popular in North West Africa.
  • Tafsir an-Nasafi. Written by the great Hanafi theologian Nasafi and published in 2 volumes.
  • Tafsir Abu Hayyan called "Bahr al-Muhit" This tafsir is in several volumes and contains many stories that some commentators consider to be unreliable. However, it is popular in North Africa as it origiated from Andalusia.
  • Tafsir Jalalayn. The great Shafi Sheikh Jalal ud-Din Siyuti wrote 2 tafsirs one named Jalalayn and the other ad-Durr al-Munu'r. Both are published (the second in several volumes) and the Jalalayn is very popular with Muslims all over the world due to its simplicity.

Modernist Mufassireen

  • Sayyed Qutb: In the Shade of the Qu'ran - Many praise it as a modern tafsir of the Qur'an. However, many critics including some Wahhabi and Salafi scholars say that Qutb had little Islamic knowledge and did tafsir in his own opinion. It has also been attacked for not containing the classical tafsir style (using the above mentioned sources).
  • Abul Ala Maududi: Tafheem ul Quraan - One of the most widely read Tafsir, is another relatively modern exegesis of the Quran. It is written mostly for the general public with a view to relate the Islamic teachings to all sphere's of life. It is criticized for its free style explanations.

Tafsir in other languages

Tafsir was almost always written in Arabic but during the 20th century with the emergecne of modern states, the need was felt by Muslims to write commenaries upon the Qur'an in local languages so that those who do not know Arabic can still have access to the meaning of the Qur'an.

The following are a list of tafsirs that have been written in non-Arabic languages.

  • Elmalili tefsir

Published in 10 volumes it remains the most popular tafsir in the Turkish language.

  • Omar Bilmen

Author of a 8 volume tafsir. The language however, is written in an old form of Turkish that many modern Turks find difficult to understand.

  • Konyali Tefsir

A volumous tafsir written in simple language but less popular than the Elmalili tafsir.

External links

Shiite Tafsir link needed


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