TAFSEER IBN ABBAS – Book Sample
General Editor’s Introduction – TAFSEER IBN ABBAS
Up until now, the fundamental texts of the Islamic faith, apart from the notable exceptions of the Qur’an and the Hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him, have remained out of reach of many Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Among the most important sources for understanding the Qur’an are the tafsir works, commentaries on the Qur’an, which help to properly explain and contextualise the Revelation.
A common concern is that the original Arabic works are often obscure, linguistically difficult and physically inaccessible, particularly to ordinary Muslims in the Islamic world and the West, who in seeking to better understand their own faith, often do not possess sufficient mastery of Classical Arabic (fusha) to be able to understand the early tafsir works. Likewise, fundamental works in translation have not been readily accessible or available.
Consequently, such works are often erroneously regarded as antiquated and no longer of relevance. Quite the contrary, the English translations of exegetical works now make it possible to engage these works without any preconceived notions and moreover, to use them as a basis for studying the Arabic originals.
Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, presented here in English for the first time ever, is the second work in the Great Tafsirs of the Qur’an series published by the non-for-profit Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman
In keeping with the Aal al-Bayt’s objectives of “Promoting awareness of Islam and Islamic thought, rectifying unsound ideas and misconceptions about Islam, highlighting the Islamic intellectual contribution and its impact on human civilization”, the series aims to make widely-available in affordable print and in electronic formats (http://www.altafsir.com) leading exegetical works in translation for study and research in unabridged form which are faithful to the letter and meaning of the Arabic.
Forthcoming titles in the series include, Al-Wahidi’s Asbab al-Nuzul (translated by the translator of the present work), Sahl al-Tustari’s Tafsir, Baydawi’s Tafsir, Qushayri’s Lata’if al-Isharat, Al- Nasafi’s Tafsir, and others.
Tanwir al-Miqbas is often attributed to the Companion ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Abbas b. ‘Abd al-Muttalib (d. 68/687), cousin of the Prophet and father of the discipline of Qur anic exegesis, or to the renowned Shafi‘i scholar Majd al-Din Muhammad Ibn Ya‘qub al-Firuzabadi (d. 817/1414). Despite its uncertain authorship, as discussed below by the translator, Tanwir al-Miqbas remains a pivotal work for the study of Islamic exegesis for the following reasons:
- The traditions attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas that are at the core of this work render it as a seminal work of exegesis.
- This commentary is unabridged and uncensored as are other works in the series.
- The work is an example of the tafsir type known as tafsir bi’l-riwaya or tafsir bi’l-ma’thur. That is, it contains reports going back to the Prophet (pbuh) or a Companion, in this case Ibn ‘Abbas.
- Tanwir al-Miqbas does not contain elaborate theological or philosophical explanations.
- Tanwir al-Miqbas does not contain the technical grammatical explanations commonly found in other works.
- Tanwir al-Miqbas is unencumbered by isnads or chains of transmission, occasionally found in other tafsir works, thus making the work accessible to the non-specialist.
History of publication and scholarship
The earliest print edition of Tanwir al-Miqbas was produced in Bombay, India in 1864 by Matba‘ Muhammadi. The next edition to appear was the 1873 Bulaq edition which was subsequently reprinted in 1951 by Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi and Sons. In 1937, a private edition was printed in the margins of the Qur’an at the expense of ‘Abd al-Hamid Ahmad Hanafi. In 1972, Dar al-Anwar al-Muhammadiyya in Cairo issued a work edited by Muhammad al-Sadiq al-Qamhawi and ‘Abd al-Hafiz Muhammad ‘Isa.
In 1976, an edition was produced in Multan, India, presumably a reprint of the 1864 Bombay edition. In 1995 (2001), Dar al-Fikr in Beirut under the supervision of an editorial committee issued the work in a re-edited vocalised edition. In 2000, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah issued a vocalised edition. Other editions and reprints include Dar al-Fikr in Beirut (2001) and Al-Maktabah Al-‘Asriyyah in Sidon (2005). The authoritative Arabic text of the work is now available on the Altafsir.com website (http://www.altafsir.com).
Scholarship on Tanwir al-Miqbas in the Arab and Islamic world has thus far been limited. Only one major study has appeared which focuses on the exegetical traditions of Ibn ‘Abbas: ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Hamidi, Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas wa Marwiyatuhu fi’l-Tafsir min Kutub al-Sunnah published in 1986 by Umm al-Qura University in Mecca. However, it is to be hoped that publication of this work will lead to the production of further studies of the work in the Islamic world and the west and to the critical discussion of it in universities and academies in the Islamic world and the West.
The translator Mr Mokrane Guezzou of the United Kingdom has presented herein a competently translated work which is both accessible and intelligible without the over-reliance on footnotes found in some academic translations of Islamic sources. Finally, we would like to express our appreciation to Fons Vitae Publishers, the managing director Aisha Gray Henry, the marketing director Pam Swisher and finally to the copy editor Elena Lloyd-Sidel.
Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas Attributed to Abu Tahir Muhammad Ibn Ya‘qub al-Firuzabadi
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, bismi’llahi al-rahmani al-rahimi, and Allah bless our master Muhammad and all members of his Household.
‘Abdullah, the trustworthy narrator, the son of al-Ma’mun 1 al-Harawi related to us> his father> Abu ‘Abdullah> Abu ‘Ubaydullah Mahmud Ibn Marwan al-Razi> ‘Ammar Ibn ‘Abd al-Majid al-Harawi> ‘Ali Ibn Ishaq al-Samarqandi> Muhammad Ibn Marwan> al-Kalbi> Abu Salih who related that Ibn ‘Abbas said: ‘the ba’ [in bismi, in the Name] stands for Allah’s splendour (baha’), magnificence (bahjah), nobleness (bala’), grace (barakah), and the beginning of His name the Creator (al-Bari’). The (sin) [in bismi] stands for Allah’s loftiness (sana), elevatedness (sumuww) and the beginning of His name the All-Hearing (al-Sami‘).
The (mim) [in bismi] stands for Allah’s dominion (mulk), glory (majd), blessing (minnah) on His servants whom He, Exalted is He, has guided to faith, and the beginning of His name the Glorious (al-Majid). Allah means the One who is entreated by people in times of need and when hardships occur. (The Beneficent) (al- Rahman), that is Him Who is compassionate towards both the pious and sinner in that He provides both with sustenance and drives away adversities from both.
(The Merciful) (al-Rahim), that is particularly Him Who is so towards the believers in that He forgives their sins and admits them into Paradise. It also means Him Who conceals the sins of believers in this world and Who will show mercy towards them in the Hereafter and thus admit them into Paradise’.
Surah 1: The Opening (al-Fatihah)
Among its surahs is the Opening of the Book (al-Fatihah), which according to some is Medinan, and to others Meccan: [1:1]
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. [1:2]
And on his authority it is related that Ibn ‘Abbas said, regarding the saying of Allah, Exalted is He, (Praise be to Allah): ‘He says: laudation is Allah’s in that He is kind towards His created beings and, hence, they praise Him. It is also said that laudation is Allah’s because of His excessive blessings upon His servants whom He has guided to believe in Him. It is also said: laudation, absolute unity and godhood all belong to Allah Who has neither progeny, partner, helper nor an assistant. (Lord of the worlds): Lord of any that has a spirit and walks about on the face of the earth and also of the dwellers of heaven. It is also said that this means: the Master of the jinn and human beings. It is also said that (Lord of the worlds) means the Creator of all created beings, their Provider and the One Who changes them from one state into another. [1:3]
(The Beneficent) the Gentle. (The Merciful) the Gentle. [1:4]
(Owner of the Day of Judgement) the Arbitrator on the Day of Judgement which is the Day of Reckoning and settlement of disputes between created beings, i.e. the Day when people are judged according to their deeds; there is no judge save Him. [1:5]
(Thee (alone) we worship), we turn to you as the only One God and we obey you; ((Thee alone) we ask for help), we ask for your help in worshipping You and from You we obtain confidence in obeying You. [1:6]
(Guide us to the straight path) guide us to the established Religion that You are pleased with, i.e. Islam. It is also said that this means: make us firm in holding fast to it. It is also said that the straight path refers to Allah’s Book, and guidance to this means guidance to that which it prescribes as lawful or unlawful and to the exposition of its content. [1:7]
(The path of those whom Thou hast favoured), the Religion of those whom You have blessed with the Religion and who are the followers of Moses, before the blessings of Allah deserted them, in that He shaded them with a white cloud and sent down on them honey and quails when they were in the wilderness. It is also said that (the path of those whom Thou hast favoured) refers to the prophets. (Not of those who earn Thine anger), not the religion of the Jews who earned Your anger, whom You forsook and whose hearts You did not protect until they became complaisant. (Nor of those who go astray), nor the religion of the Christians who erred from Islam. Amen: thus shall be its custodians; it is also said that Amen means let it be so. It is also said that it means: O our Lord! Do with us as we have requested You. And Allah knows best’.
And of the surah in which the Cow (al-Baqarah) is mentioned, which is Medinan in its entirety- although it is also said to be Meccan -and consists of 280 verses, 3,100 words and 25,500 letters.
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