what is the meaning of tafsir?
The word Tafsir is derived from the root ‘Fassar’ which means to clarify or to explain. This contextually refers to clarification of the meaning of the Quran.
Tafsir of the Quran started early in Prophet Muhammad’s life when his companions asked him about the aim of the Quranic verses and their meanings. That’s independent of their extensive knowledge of the Arabic language, as they always needed to understand Allah’s aim from the source of revelation.
Likewise, Muslims nowadays should learn Tafseer. In addition to the previous reason, they also lack the proper knowledge of the Fusha Arabic language of the Quran which necessitates learning Tafseer.
It is worth mentioning that Tafsir is a compilation of several Islamic knowledge: Arabic language, Hadith, Prophet Muhammad’s Biography, Jurisprudence, Asbab Al-Nuzul…etc.
The Importance of Reading in Tafseer Books
Reading Tafseer books is essential for every Muslim to properly understand the Quran. No doubt, the Quran’s language, and meanings are clear and obvious. However, many Muslims nowadays are non-Arabic speakers. Moreover, nowadays Arabs themselves are relatively weak in the original Fusha Arabic.
Reading Tafseer is not only important for the previously mentioned reason. However, it is also fundamental to understand the Maksud (Aim) of the verses as Allah (SWT) meant and taught his prophet (PBUH).
It is worth mentioning that understanding the Quran ignorantly in one’s own way is dangerous to his religion. We should always refer to knowledgeable scholars who understood the Quran in the light of the authentic sources of Tafseer.
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Types of Authentic Sources of Knowledge in Tafseer
There are authentic sources of Tafseer that a Mufassir should stick to. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the different authentic sources of Tafseer.
1. Tafseer The Quran by The Quran
No doubt, the Quran itself is the very first source of Tafseer. Allah (SWT) is the best one to declare the aim and the meaning of what He (SWT) had said.
There are numerous examples, we will discuss a few.
In Surah Al-Baqarah verse no. 2, Allah says that the Quran is a guide for pious people. Then He (SWT) further clarified their attributes in the following paragraphs.
Also, in Surah AL-Waqiah verse no. 10, Allah (SWT) mentions the forerunners who will be granted the highest levels in Paradise. Allah clarifies the attributes of those people in Surah Al-Mu’minoun verses 57-61.
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2. Tafseer The Quran by The Sunnah
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received revelation from Allah (SWT). He clarified the Quran and taught Muslims how to practice its teachings the right way. For example, he (PBUH) clarified the verse “Establish Prayer” by teaching Muslims how to perform prayer as Allah (SWT) taught him.
He (PBUH) said: “Pray as you have seen me perform prayer”
3. Tafseer The Quran by Sahaba Sayings
The Sahaba are the companions of the Prophet (PBUH). They were living around the time of the Quran’s revelation. They learned the Quran from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Moreover, there were some verses that were revealed in response to their questions or as a commentary on their actions. In addition, they were the best to understand the language of the Quran as it was in their mother language. Therefore, they were the best ones to tell people about the meanings of the Quran and its Tafseer.
Among the most famous Sahaba in Tafseer are: Ibn Abbas, Ibn Masud, Obayy Ibn Ka’d, Zayd Ibn Thabet… etc.
4. Tafseer The Quran by Tabi’een Sayings
The Tabi’een are the generation that directly followed the Sahaba. They didn’t see Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). However, they had the opportunity of learning the Quran directly from the mouth of the Sahaba.
Muslim scholars say that if Tabi’een agreed upon a certain Tafseer of a verse, we should immediately accept it.
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5. Tafseer by Knowledgeable Opinion
If we didn’t find a Tafseer of a certain verse in the previously mentioned sources, knowledgeable scholars work hard to clarify its meaning. This type of Tafseer is restricted to highly qualified, righteous scholars who have knowledge in several linguistic, quranic, and Islamic sciences.
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