It can be said that the purpose of tafseer is to elaborate the principles which the Quran came to clarify:
1) The elaboration of a perfect set of beliefs with regards to the Creator, and the relationship of the created with the Creator.
2) The perfection of personal conduct and good morals.
3) The establishment of a set of laws and code of conduct to govern individual and familiar relations.
4) The establishment of laws governing societal and political dealings between communities and nations.
(5) The narrations of the history of the previous nations, so that the pious among them may be followed, and the impious to act as a warning.
(6) To give the good news of Paradise and the blessings in store for the believers, and the evil tidings of the punishment of Hell in store for the disbelievers.
(7) To prove the truthfulness of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) and this is done by explaining the miraculous nature of the Quran lijaz) Therefore, the job of mufassir is to explain all of the above points to mankind.
From the above discussion, the importance of tafseer should become apparent. The science of tafseer is meant to explain to mankind the Book that has been revealed to them from Allah. The Quran is like a treasure trapped in a glass receptacle; mankind can view and benefit from this treasure, but they are in need of tafseer, for tafseer acts like the key that unlocks the treasure, so that mankind can benefit from it to the greatest possible extent.
Iyaas ibn Muawiyah (RAH) said, "The example of a people who recite the Quran and do not know its explanation is like a group of people who have a written message from their king that comes to them during the night, and they do not have a lamp. Therefore they do not know what is in the message.The example of one who knows tafseer is like a person who comes to them with a lamp and reads to them what is in the message." And the successor (tabieen)Saeed ibn Jubayr said: "whoever recites the Quran and does not explain it, is like an ignorant person."
As Suyuti (RAH) said: "(The science of tafseer) is the most honourable of all sciences for three reasons. The first reason is with respect to its topic. It deals with the Speech of Allah, which contains every kind of wisdom and virtue. It contains pronouncements about what has passed, reports of what will happen and judgments concerning what happens between the people. Its wonders never cease. The second reason is with respect to the great need for this science.
Every aspect of this religion and this world, in the near or distant future, is in need of the sciences of the Shareeah and knowledge of the religion, and this knowledge can only be obtained through the understanding of the Book of Allah." Apart from the reasons, the Quran itself commands its readers to ponder over it, and to reflect upon its meanings, for its says: "(This is) a Book which We have sent down to you, full of blessings, so that they may ponder over its verses, and that men of understanding may remember. " (Q38[Sad]:29)
It is the science of tafseer which is the fruit of pondering over its verses.
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited