The Principles of Tafseer

   By the 'Principles of Tafseer' we mean the proper methodology in interpreting the Qur'aan, which includes the conditions and characteristics of a mufassir (one who interprets the Qur'aan), and the basis and characteristics of a proper tafseer. The science of tafseer is one which, similar to the other sciences of Islaam, is based on well-grounded, systematic principles. These principles are derived from the Qur'aan, the Sunnah and the statements of the Companions.

 

The first of these principles is:

1) Tafseer of the Qur'an by the Qur'an

 

The most important source of understanding the Qur'aan is the Qur'aan itself. After all, the Qur'aan is an entire Book that has been revealed by Allaah, and therefore in order to understand anyone verse, the entire context of this verse must be looked at. The meanings of the Qur'aan can never contradict each other, as Allaah says, "Do they not ponder over the Qur'aan? For indeed, had it been from other than Allaah, they would surely have found many contradictions in it." (Q4[Nisaa]:82)

 

In this verse, the command is given to ponder over the whole Qur'aan, verse by verse, for had it been from any other than Allaah, its verses would have contradicted one another. Therefore, it is essential to turn to. the Qur'aan itself in order to interpret any verse in the Qur'aan. This principle is demonstrated in many verses in the Qur'aan. Sometimes, a question is asked, and then answered in the next verses. For example; "By the Heavens, and the taariq and what will make you know what the taariq is? (It is) the star of piercing brightness."(Q86[Taariq]: 1-3)

 

In other cases, the reference to another verse is not obvious. For example, the reference to "the path of those whom You have favoured." (Q1 [Faatihah]:7) is explained in Q4:69 as: "And whoever obeys Allaah and His Messenger, they will be in the company of those whom Allaah has shown favour, of the Prophets, and the truthful followers, and the martyrs, and the pious and how excellent these companions are!"

 

Therefore, the second verse explains who those whom You have favoured' are in some places in the Qur'aan, a story is mentioned in brief and in another place it is elaborated. For example in the story of the repentance of Aadam, verse 2:37 states, "Then Aadam received from his Lord words, and He relented towards him." In this verse, the 'words' that Aadam received are not mentioned, and it is essential to turn to another verse to know what Aadam said: "They (Aadam and Eve) said, 'Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If you do not forgive us and have Mercy on us, we will be of the lost!" (Q7[A'raf]:23)

 

The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) also showed the principle of interpreting the Qur'aan by the Qur'aan when he was asked concerning the verse, "Those who believe and do not mix their belief with injustice ... " (Q6[An'am]:82) The Companions asked, "O Messenger of Allaah! Who amongst us does not do injustice (to his soul)?" The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) replied. "Have you not read the statement of Luqmaan .. 'Verily, shirk is a great injustice? (Q31[Luqman]: 13).

 

 In other words, the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) quoted them another verse in the Qur'aan to explain to them what the 'injustice referred to in the verse actually meant  an example of tafseer of the Qur'aan by the Qur'aan.

 

To conclude, it is essential that every verse of the Qur'aan be looked at in light of its sister verses; no interpretation of any verse can contradict another verse.

 

 

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

 

 

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