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The Sciences of Tafseer

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    Posted: 29 August 2006 at 5:33am
The Sciences of Tafseer

by Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi

Translated by Sidi Abdassamad Clarke


Praise belongs to Allah, the Mighty, Giver of Gifts, King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the One Who sent the book down upon His slave, as a guidance and a reminder to those of understanding. Within it He placed the furthest limit of wisdom, decisive discourse, useful sciences, and conclusive proofs. He singled out for it the most astonishing of every astonishing wonder of exalted qualities, concealed subtleties, clear indications and divine secrets. He made it at the highest level of elucidation so that it is impossible for men and jinn [to imitate]. Scholars who are masters of language recognise the eloquence, skill, composition, syntax and abundant goodness it contains.

He made its memorisation in the breasts easy and guaranteed its protection from being exchanged or altered, so that it has not changed, and will not, during the entire length of time and the course of epochs. He made it a distinct speech and a just judgement, a clear sign and an enduring miracle, which was testified to by whoever witnessed the revelation as well as whoever was absent, and by it the argument on behalf of the penitent believer, and the proof against the doubting disbeliever will be established.

He guides people by the judgements He lays down in it, makes clear the halal and the haram and teaches the rites of Islam. He alternates the mention of prohibitions, commands, exhortations, restrictions, good news of reward and warning of punishment.

He makes the people of the Qur'an the people of Allah and His choicest friends. He singles them out from among His slaves, and makes them inherit the Garden and a beautiful place of return. So glory be to our Generous Master Who singled us out with His Book, and honoured us with His address. What an abundant blessing, and far-reaching proof. May Allah the Generous help us to undertake the duty of showing gratitude for it, fulfilling its right, and recognising its rank. My success is only by Allah, He is my Lord, there is no god but Him, upon Him I depend and to Him I turn in repentance.

The blessings of Allah, His peace, His greetings, His blessings, and His honouring be upon the one who guided us to Allah, conveyed to us the message of Allah, brought us the Vast Qur'an and the wise ayat, struggled for the sake of Allah truly, and taught, counselled and explained until the proof was established, the goal of the pilgrimage came in sight, the right direction was clearly distinct from deviance, the path of the truth and the correct became evident, and the darknesses of doubt and uncertainty were dispelled. That was our lord and master Muhammad, the unlettered prophet, the Qurashi, the Hashimi, the one chosen from the quintessence of the best, the one singled out from the purest of lineages, and noblest of noble descents, whom Allah aided with evident miracles, overpowering troops, and sharp wrathful swords.

He united in him the nobility of this world and the next world, and made him a leader for those whose extremities are whitened [from wudu'] and whose faces are bright. He is the first who will intercede on the Day of Reckoning, and the first who will enter the Garden and knock on the door. May Allah bless him, his pure family, and his honoured companions, the best family and companions, with a pure abundant blessing whose measure cannot be taken by number or reckoning, and which neither the tongues of the eloquent nor the pens of writers will even approach describing.

(The above is from the Introduction which Ibn Juzayy wrote to his own tafsir. He was born in 693 AH. His name was Abu Abdullah Muhammad, called al-Qasim, ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi (from the Arab tribe of Kalb), may Allah be pleased with him and make him contented, and make the Garden his shelter. He was al-Gharnati (from Granada in Andalusia, Spain) and thus European. Ibn Juzayy wrote widely on all the sciences of his day: hadith, fiqh, Qur'anic recitations and tafsir. He died as a shaheed in the Battle of Tareef in the year 741 AH, may Allah be pleased with him.)

The Sciences of Tafsir

The knowledge of the tremendous Qur'an is the most exalted of sciences in rank, the most majestic of them in significance, the vastest of them in reward, and the noblest of them in remembrance. Allah blessed me by occupying me in service of the Qur'an, in learning and teaching it. He made me fall in love with its meanings and with acquiring its sciences. I discovered what commentary the 'ulama, may Allah be pleased with them, had compiled of compositions of different descriptions and distinct classes on the Qur'an.

There are those who prefer summarisation, and of them there are those who go to great lengths until they increase greatly the number of books. There are those who speak about one type of science rather than any other. There are those who depend on transmitting the sayings of people. There are those who depend on insight, verification and exactness. Each travels the path he does, and takes the way he is pleased with, and Allah promises each the best.

I desired to travel on their path, and to join the development of their group. So I composed this book in commentary on the Tremendous Qur'an, and every science that is connected to it. I have adopted a useful course since I have made it both comprehensive and concise, by which I intend four things which contain four benefits.

The first benefit:

The gathering together of much science in a book of small volume in order to make things easier for students, and to bring things nearer for the eager. This book encompasses that which lengthy collections of knowledge contain, but after condensing and clarifying it and revising its sectional arrangements, and omitting its filler [material] and its excess. I have placed the desired quintessence of every one of the different sorts of science of Qur'an in it, without either excess or neglect, rather than the avoidable trivialities. Moreover I resolved on succinctness of expression, exaggerated concision, and avoidance of lengthiness and repetition.

Second benefit:

The mention of wonderful points and amazing benefits, which are rarely found in books, because they are one of my concerns (literally, "The daughters of my breast"), the springs of my remembrance (dhikr) and a part of that which I took from my shaykhs, may Allah be pleased with them, or from that which I received of rare elegances occurring in unusual manuscripts.

Third benefit:

The clarification of problems, either by resolving tightly locked, knotty problems, or by a good expression or the elimination of possible meanings and the explanation of general concepts.

Fourth benefit:

Verification of both the defective and sound sayings of the commentators, and distinguishing [the view] which is weightier from that which is of less consequence. That is because people's statements are in degrees:

there is that which is sound upon which one can rely; the false to which one should not turn; and there is that which may be thought either sound or corrupt. These possibilities [of soundness and falsehood] may be equal or different. The difference may be little or a lot. I have given these divisions different expressions by which you will know every degree and each statement.

The least of them is that about which I make clear that it is either a mistake or false. Then there is the one which I say is weak or remote. Then there is the one which I say that other than it is weightier than it, or stronger, or more obvious or more well known. Then there is the one which I give other than it precedence [in the order of mention] over it, making it known that the one preceded is weightier.
Or [there is the one which] by saying about it "It is said that..." or "Some say about it..." [I am] intending to get out of responsibility for it.

As for when I declare the name of the one who has made the statement, then I do that for one of two reasons: either to get out of responsibility for it, or else to seek his help [for what I believe is true] if the one who makes the statement is one on whom people model themselves. But I rarely attribute statements to people. That is because of the weakness of most ascriptions, or because of the differences of the transmitters in their ascription to them. As for if I mention a thing without ascribing it to anyone, that indicates that I myself follow it and am satisfied with it whether it is from me myself, or from that which I have chosen from the words of someone else. As for when a statement is completely mistaken or false, then I will not mention it in order to keep the book pure. Otherwise I may mention it in order to declare myself free of it.

This matter of the weighing [of views] and rectifying them is either based on scientific principles, or on that which the Arabic language requires, and we will mention after this a chapter on the necessities of weighing different statements, insha'Allah.

I have named it: The Book Which Eases the Sciences of Revelation.

I have written two introductions at the beginning of it, one of them in useful chapters and comprehensive universal principles, and the other on vocabulary which is oft used.

I desire of Allah the Vast, the Generous, that He make the compilation of this book an accepted action, an effort which finds a response, and a means which will make me arrive to the gardens of bliss, and which rescues me from the punishment of hell, and there is no power to avert evil nor strength to do good except by Allah the Exalted, the Vast.

(See or download from The Sciences of Hadith the rest of this introduction to the Tafseer of Ibn Juzayy, including the commentary on the Fatiha).
"I am a slave. I eat as a slave eats and I sit as a slave sits.", Beloved, sallallahu alyhi wa-sallam.
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