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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Muqaddimah (2): Preface (Part B)

b. Explanation of the Verses with their Parallels
Now we turn to the second important principle of exegesis namely tafsīr al-āyāt bi al-āyāt. To begin with I quote ‘Allāmah Suyūṭī:

قال العلماء من أراد تفسيرا الكتاب العزيز طلب اولا من القرآن فما اجمل منه فيه مكان فقد فسرفي موضع آخر وما اختصر في مكان فقد بسط في موضع آخر منه و قد ألف أبن الجوزي كتابا فيما أجمل في القرآن في موضع و فسر في موضع آخر منه و قد اشرت إلى أمثلة منه في نوع المجمل فإن إاعياه ذالك طلبه من السنة فإنها شارحة للقرآن و موضحة له و قد قال الشافعي رحمه الله كلما حكم به رسول الله فهو مما فهمه من القرآن قال الله تعالى إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ لِتَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِمَا أَرَاكَ اللّهُ فى آيات أخر و قال رسول الله ألا إني أوتيت القرآن و مثله معه يعنى السنة فإن لم يجد من االسنة رجع إلى أقوال الصحابة فأنهم ادرى بذالك لما شاهدوه من القرآن و الأحوال عند نزوله ولما احتصوا به من الفهم التام و العلم الصحيح و العمل الصالح
The scholars have said that, while embarking on the task of interpreting the divine text, a commentator has to refer to the Holy Qur’ān itself first of all because whatever part of the Book is ambiguous in one place has been made clear in another place. What is put with brevity here has been elaborated upon there. Ibn al-Jawzī has devoted a treatise to the discussion of the Qur’ānic themes briefly alluded to in one place and explained at another. I too have brought forth some examples of the kind under the discussion of mujmal (ambiguous). If it is not possible then the exegete needs to turn to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws) because the Sunnah explains and explicates the Holy Qur’ān. Imām Shāfi‘ī has said that all the Prophetic commands were based on the Holy Qur’ān. The following verse of the Holy Qur’ān attests this:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ لِتَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِمَا أَرَاكَ اللّهُ
We have sent down to you the Book with decisive truth that you may judge between men by what God has shown you. (4:105)

Many other verses of the Holy Qur’ān support this fact. The Prophet (sws) too has said:

إني أوتيت القرآن و مثله معه
I have been granted the Holy Qur’ān   and with it something similar to it[1] i.e. the Sunnah.[2]

If however, it is not possible for him (to interpret the verse in the light of the Sunnah) then he must consult the sayings of the Companions (rta). They best knew what was revealed before their eyes, had full knowledge of the circumstances in which it was revealed and were characterized by a perfect understanding, sound knowledge and pious deeds.[3]

I fully appreciate that the first thing to be resorted to in the task of interpreting the Holy Qur’ān is the Qur’ān itself. The knowledge that we have received from the Holy Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta) follows it. God knows that, to me, the best interpretation of the Qur’ān is that validly ascribed to the Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta).
Some of the scholars have conducted exegesis on the basis of traditions. The work of Ibn al-Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, often hailed as the unparalleled Tafṣīr work, represents this model. However, most of the narratives he employed in his commentary are not sound and reliable. Very few traditions are marfū‘.[4] Syūṭī has indeed collected the opinions of the earlier commentators on the meaning of the Qur’ānic verses, completely ignoring their mutual contradiction.
Though, I believe that most of the ṣaḥīḥ[5] narratives do not contradict the Holy Qur’ān yet I have refrained from basing my commentary on the Ḥadīth narratives. I have used them only in corroborating my opinions on the Qur’ānic verses concluded in the light of their parallels. To me, the status of categorical resource of exegesis is exclusive for the Qur’ān. The Ḥadīth narratives work only as explanatory and non-categorical resource which must accord with the foundational one and may never override it. This is because I intend to keep the door of difference and confrontation closed on the rejecters of the Book who have thrown the word of God on their backs and on the heretic who have attributed to the Muslims things that which are not based on the word of God. I have consciously adopted this approach in order that that the Book serves as the common guide for all and as the basic criterion and deciding force on the confronting views of sectarian groups.
I do not indeed intend to amass all that relates to the Holy Qur’ān for I believe that the book of God is a mine of treasure which does not exhaust no matter how great number of seekers approach it. Moreover there is already sufficient number of exegetical works. Whoever searches through them with the eyes of a researcher is rewarded with what is destined for him of knowledge.  I have, on the contrary, intended to bring to surface that which works as the foundation, the source, the balance, and the wisdom. Therefore, I have abandoned anything other than the Holy Qur’ān without declaring it unacceptable, following Imām Bukhārī who recorded in his book only those aḥādīth which were sound to him and were accepted by all. He did not deem it fit to reject the other narratives which he could not include in his work. In the present work, I could not even discuss a tiny part of the wisdom and the realities buried in the Qur’ānic text itself what to say of the discussions external to it. If the Lord wills I will write a separate book in which, with His help, I will deal with all such pearls of the Qur’ānic wisdom.
Just as I have employed the Ḥadīth narratives in corroboration of the conclusions reached at in the light of the Qur’ānic text I also use the Scriptures revealed to the earlier nations in the same capacity. The basic objective behind this exercise is to reveal and highlight the issues where the Qur’ānic and the Biblical verses are in agreement. This establishes the veracity of Islam over the Jews and the Christians with the help of their Scriptures. They too have been splitting hair on issues, they suppose, they have found in the Qur’ān in their favor.
The above discussion is enough for a preface. There are, however, other matters of fundamental import which call for detailed discussion for which I have dedicated the introductions to the present book. We can refer to them in the course of discussion of the exegesis to avoid disruption by frequent repetitions.
This work is divided in a hundred and fourteen chapters, a separate chapter for each sūrah. I thank God for whatever I have written correct. He is surely the source of all blessings. Thus whatever right conclusions I have reached are definitely owed to God.  If, however, I have been wrong, God knows, I have only pursued a good desire in my mind like Jacob.[6]




[1]. Sunan Abi Da’ūd, No: 4604, Musnad Ahmed, No:17213
[2]. Here the author has put the following note:
هذا التفسير من الشافعي رحمه الله و الثواب عندي مثله معه هو الفهم والبصيرة والنور الذي أشرق به قلبه مع أنزال الوحي كما قال الله تعالى وَكَذَلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ رُوحًا مِّنْ أَمْرِنَا مَا كُنتَ تَدْرِي مَا الْكِتَابُ وَلَا الْإِيمَانُ وَلَكِن جَعَلْنَاهُ نُورًا نَّهْدِي بِهِ مَنْ نَّشَاء مِنْ عِبَادِنَا وَإِنَّكَ لَتَهْدِي إِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ
Imām Shāfi‘ī took the phrase, “something like it” to mean the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws). We, however, believe that it refers to the prophetic understanding, wisdom and the light which illuminated his heart after he received the divine revelation. The following verse alludes to such an impact of the revelation on the person of the Prophet (sws), “Thus We have revealed the inspiration to you by Our command, while, previously you were not acquainted with the Sharī‘ah and the faith. But We have made it (i.e. the Holy Qur’ān) a light with which We guide those of Our servants whom We will. Verily, you guide people to the straight path.” (42:52)

[3]. Suyūṭī, al-Itqān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qur’ān,  vol. 2, 434
[4]. A marfū‘ Ḥadīth is a narrative directly traced back to the Prophet (sws).
[5]. A ṣaḥīḥ Ḥadīth is transmitted through an unbroken chain of narrators all of whom are of sound character and memory. The narrative should not clash with a more reliable report and must not suffer from any other hidden defect.
[6]. This alludes to the following verses of the Qur’ān dealing with the story of the Prophet Jacob and the Prophet Joseph: When they entered in the manner their father had commanded them, Jacob’s purpose was fulfilled but it could not avail them anything against Allah, except that there was a desire in Jacob’s mind which he thus satisfied; and he was surely possessed of great knowledge we had taught him, but most men know not. (12:68)