The Great Exegesis – al-Tafsir al- Kabir Volume I: The Fatiha by Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi Translated with notes by Sohaib Saeed
The exegesis’s description
“The Great Exegesis” (al-Tafsir al-Kabir) is a seminal work in Islamic exegesis authored by the celebrated Sunni Imam Muhammad b. Umar al-Razi, known as Fakhr al-Din. This monumental work has long been acknowledged as one of the core texts in the genre of Quranic commentary. It is renowned for its profound insights into the Quran, but it is far more than a traditional exegesis. The work encompasses an array of subjects, including Arabic linguistics, comparative jurisprudence, Islamic philosophy, dialectical theology, and Sufism, making it a comprehensive compendium of knowledge.
Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi was a prolific author and a prominent proponent of the Ash’ari school of theology and the Shafi’i school of Law. His background and extensive education prepared him for the intellectual rigors of the time, and he developed a reputation as an eminent scholar during his lifetime. His deep engagement with philosophy, theology, jurisprudence, and his spiritual sensitivity positioned him as a leading figure in the Islamic intellectual tradition. Additionally, his mastery of the Arabic language, especially in relation to the Quran, set him apart as a linguistic virtuoso.
The translation of “The Great Exegesis” into English is a significant endeavor. While the translation of the Quran into English dates back to the 17th century and has gained momentum over the past half-century, the translation of Islamic exegeses, particularly that of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, has received far less attention. Al-Razi’s “al-Tafsir al-Kabir” is considered one of the most crucial exegeses due to its size, scope, and depth. The original editions of this work were formidable, often spanning multiple volumes without proper indexing, making it a challenging text to navigate.
What sets al-Razi’s “The Great Exegesis” apart is its comprehensive approach, encompassing various subjects beyond traditional Quranic commentary. This all-encompassing approach has led to a humorous yet telling adage critic among scholars that al-Razi’s tafsir includes everything except tafsir. While this statement is a humorous exaggeration, it captures the depth and breadth of the work. Imam al-Razi’s expertise in multiple subjects, his holistic vision of the Quranic text, his analytical prowess, and his linguistic skills distinguish his exegesis from others.
In the text, the importance of al-Razi’s tafsir is highlighted by Professor Muhammad Abdel Haleem, the King Fahd Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of London. Professor Haleem emphasizes that if he had to choose only one tafsir to rely on, he would readily select al-Razi’s. This attests to the significance of al-Razi’s work in the field of Quranic commentary and Islamic scholarship.
Translating “The Great Exegesis” into English is no small feat. It requires a deep understanding and appreciation of the various disciplines covered in the tafsir, a profound knowledge of Arabic at the level used by al-Razi, and mastery of the English language to convey the nuances of the original text effectively. Sohaib Saeed, the translator, is well-qualified for this daunting task. He holds degrees in philosophy, theology, and tafsir from reputable institutions, including al-Azhar University and London University.
Saeed’s translation is meticulous and faithful to the original text. He has not merely summarized the content but has translated the entire text of the Fatiha, an essential chapter in the Quran, from al-Razi’s tafsir. This approach is crucial as it allows scholars and readers to access the full text rather than selective excerpts. Additionally, Saeed has rectified long-standing errors in the Arabic editions of the text and has supplemented the translation with his own comments where necessary.
Saeed’s undertaking is commendable and plays a pivotal role in making “The Great Exegesis” accessible to English-speaking Muslim and non-Muslim readers. He sets a paradigm for future translators who may contribute to the monumental task of translating al-Razi’s full tafsir into English. The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute of Islamic Thought in Jordan and the Islamic Texts Society in Cambridge have played a crucial role in inspiring and facilitating this significant translation project. Their support may pave the way for the entire “The Great Exegesis” to be published in English.
The structure of “The Great Exegesis” reflects the typical format of Quranic commentaries, following the order of the Quran and providing detailed explanations of one or more verses at a time. However, al-Razi’s approach within this framework is unique. He divides the commentary into units known as “Enquiries” (masa’il), which explore issues related to the verses and their connections to various subjects. These units may include extended lists of proofs for different perspectives on a matter, which al-Razi addresses with thoroughness and precision.
The present volume focuses on al-Razi’s commentary on Surat al-Fatiha, one of the most crucial chapters of the Quran. Al-Razi’s approach to the Fatiha is subdivided into three books, each addressing different aspects of the chapter. The first book delves into the formula of seeking refuge (isti’adha), and the second book discusses the basmala, the invocation of God’s name at the beginning of the Fatiha and other surahs. These books provide valuable theological insights related to God’s names and attributes. The third book represents the exegesis proper, with introductory chapters followed by a detailed analysis of the remaining verses of the Fatiha.
It is worth noting that “The Great Exegesis” is a work of immense depth and complexity. The volume analyzed in this text, Book I, requires careful navigation due to its linguistic explorations and profound insights. The author’s introduction outlines his theory that numerous sciences, both religious and natural, can be derived from the Quran. This ambitious perspective underscores the scope and ambition of al-Razi’s work.
However, the translation and interpretation of “The Great Exegesis” come with their own challenges, particularly concerning the references to the Quran and Hadith. To provide an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the text, the translator often relied on Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation as a base for translating verses. However, adaptations were necessary to ensure that the quotations fit the author’s intended context. Additionally, the translator had to address the complexities of referencing Hadith, ensuring accuracy and relevance while respecting the tradition’s rigorous methods of verification.
Hadith references in “The Great Exegesis” require careful attention, as they hold a central role in Islamic scholarship. The verification of Hadith is a meticulous process that involves assessing the authenticity and reliability of each report’s chain of narrators. Reports that meet specific criteria are categorized as authentic (sahih) or fair (hasan). These verified reports are then used as sources for legal rulings, theological arguments, and other aspects of Islamic scholarship.
التفسير الكبير – سورة الفاتحة
THE GREAT EXEGESIS – AL-TAFSIR AL- KABIR VOLUME I
- BOOK I: Sciences Derived from the Isti ádha
- Literary Aspects of the Isti’adha
- Chapter One: The Word (Kalima) and its Like
- Chapter Two: Sounds, Letters and their Rulings
- Chapter Three: Nouns, Verbs and Particles
- Chapter Four: Various Categorisations of the Noun
- Chapter Five: Rulings Concerning Genus Nouns and Derived Nouns
- Chapter Six: Inflected and Uninflected Nouns
- Chapter Seven: Inflection of Verbs |
- Narrated and Rational Exegesis of the Jstiadha
- Chapter Eight: Juristic Issues Connected to the Isti adha
- Chapter Nine: Rational Enquiries Concerning the Zsti’ädha
- Chapter Ten: Spiritual Allusions of the Istiadha .
- Chapter Eleven: Further Enquiries Associated with the Istiadha
- BOOK II: The Basmala
- Chapter One: Introductory Enquiries B
- Chapter Two: Concerning the Recitation and Writing of the Basmala
- Chapter Three: Concerning the Name (Ism)
- Chapter Four: Names Denoting Actual Attributes
- Chapter Five: Names Denoting Relative Attributes
- Chapter Six: Names Denoting Eliminative Attributes
- Chapter Seven: Names Denoting Combinations of Actual and Relative Attributes
- Chapter Fight: Remaining Issues Pertaining to Divine Names
- Chapter Nine: The Name Allah
- Chapter Ten: The Names al-Rahman and al-Rahim
- Chapter Eleven: Spiritual Allusions of the Basmala
- BOOK III: The Fatiha
- Chapter One: Names of this Sara
- Chapter Two: Virtues of this Sära
- Chapter Three: Rational Wisdoms Derived from this Sara
- Chapter Four: Juristic Issues Connected to this Sura
- Chapter Five: Exegesis of Sürat al- Fatiha [Verse by Verse]
- All praise is for God…
- Lord of the worlds (Q.1.2)
- The Compassionate, the Merciful (Q.1.3)
- Master of the Day of Judgment (Q.1.4)
- You we worship…
- And from You we seek help (Q.1.5)
- Guide us upon the straight path (Q.1.6)
- The path of those on whom You have bestowed favour…
- Not of those who incur wrath, nor of those who are astray (Q.1.7)
- Chapter Six: Exegesis of Sürat al- Fütilia as a Whole
- Rational Subtleties Derived from this Sara
- The Approaches of Satan
- How the Fatiha Contains All] the Requisite Knowledge of the Beginning, the Middle and the End
- God’s Division of the Prayer into Two Halves
- The Prayer is the Ascension of the Gnostics
- On Divine Superiority and Greatness
- Subtleties Concerning All praise is for God and the Five
- Divine Names in this Sara
- The Reason for the Basmala Containing the Three Names
- The Reason for the Fatiha Containing the Five Names
- Concluding Observation