Famous Commentaries of the Quran


Countless commentaries of the Glorious Qur'an have been written since the blessed period of the Prophethood. In fact, no other book of the world has been served as much as the noble Qur'an. Introducing all these commentaries is not possible even in some detailed book, much less in a brief introduction such as this. But, what we wish to do here is to introduce very briefly the major commentaries that have served as particular sources of Ma'ariful Qur'an and which have been cited there time and again. Although, during the period the above commentary was being written, many commentaries and hundreds of books were constantly referred to, but here, the purpose is to limit the introduction to commentaries the references to which will appear repeatedly.


Tafsir ibn Jarir

The real name of this Tafsir is Jami' al-Bayan and it was compiled by Allamah Aba Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (died 310 Hijrah). Allamah Tabari is a highly rated commentator, Muhaddith (hadeeth expert) and historian. It is said that he kept writing for forty years continuously and used to write forty pages every day (al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, v. 11, p. 145). There are charges of being Shi'ah against him, but researchers have refuted this charge and the truth of the matter is that he is a highly regarded scholar of the followers of the Sunnah, rather one of the Shi'ite scholars.


Being in thirty volumes, his Tafsir enjoys the status of a basic source for later commentaries. In his explanation of the verses, he quotes different scholars and then goes on to prove the position which, according to him, is weightier, of course, with arguments and proof. It must, however, be admitted that narration's of all sorts, sound and weak, have found a place in his commentary. Because of this, not every narration presented by him can be relied upon. In reality, he was aiming through his commentary to collect and compile all narration's that could become available to him, so that this collected material could be put to use later on. Conceded is the fact that he has given the chain of reporters along with each narration so that whoever wishes to investigate into the chain of narrators could do so and decide for himself if the narration's are true or false.


Tafsir ibn Kathir

Hafiz 'Imad al-din Abu al-Fida' Isma'il ibn Kathir al-Dimashqi al-Shafi'i (died 774 Hijrah), a distinguished research scholar of the eighth century, is the author of this commentary. It has been published in four volumes. Here emphasis has been laid on explanatory narration's. A special feature is his criticism as hadeeth expert on different narration's, and from this point of view, this book holds a distinct place among all books of Tafsir.


Tafsir Al-Qurtubi

Its full name is Al-Jami li-Ahkam al-Qur'an. It was written by the famous learned writer and research scholar of Andalusia (Spain), Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad Abi Bakr ibn Farah al-Qurtubi (died 671 Hijrah). He was a follower of the Maliki school of fiqh and was known all over for his 'ibadah and piety. The fact is that the basic objective of this book was to deduce juristic injunctions and rulings from the Qur'an yet, while doing so, he has also provided the explanation of verses, research into difficult words, discussion of diacritical marks and elegance of style and composition, and related Traditions and Reports in his Tafsir, and quite ably so. This book is in twelve volumes and has been published repeatedly.


Al-Tafsir al-Kabir

This is the work of Imam Fakhr al-din al-Razi (died 606 Hijrah). Its real name is Mafatih al-Ghayb, but is popularly known as Tafsir Kabir'. Imam Razi is an imam of the theology of Islam, therefore, great emphasis has been laid in his Tafsir on rational and scholastic debates and on the refutation of false sects'. But, the truth is that this Tafsir is, in its own way, a unique key to the Qur'an as well. Furthermore, the pleasing way in which the meanings of the Qur'an have been clarified and the mutual link of the Qur'anic verses established, is all too praise-worthy. Most likely, Imam Razi himself wrote down his Tafsir as far as Surah al-Fath. Onwards from there, he could not complete. So, the remaining part of the Tafsir, from Surah al-Fatiha to the end, was completed by Qadi Shihab al-Din ibn Khalil al-Khawli al-Dimashqi (died 639 Hijrah) or Shaykh Najm al-Din Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Qamuli (died 777 Hijrah). (Kashaf al-Zunun v. 2, p. 477)


Imam Razi has particularly emphasised scholastic debates and the refutation of false sects in accordance with the dictates of his time, and while doing so, his discussions have become too lengthy at several places, therefore, some people have made the following comment on his tafsir 'There is everything in this (book) except the Tafsir.' But this comment is a terrible injustice to Tafsir Kabir. That which is the truth has already been stated above, namely, that this Tafsir enjoys a high rating as far as the resolution of the meanings of the Qur'an is concerned. But, there are places where he has explained verses of the Qur'an while moving away from the consensus of the ummah, however, such places are very thinly spread out in this book that goes on to eight volumes.


Tafsir al-Bahr al-Muhit

This was written by 'Allamah Abu Hayyan al-Gharnati al-Andalusi (died 754 Hijrah) who was a master of syntax and rhetoric in addition to other Islamic fields of learning. As a result of this, his own Tafsir is soaked in syntax and rhetoric. He places special stress on investigating into the words of every verse, the difference in structures and on points of eloquence.


Ahkam al-Quran by al-Jassas

This was written by Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas al-Razi (died 370 Hijrah) who occupies a distinguished place among Hanafi jurists. The deduction of juristic injunctions and rulings from the noble Qur'an is the subject of this book. Instead of explaining verses in serial continuity, he has taken up the juristic details as called for by verses which consist of juristic injunctions. Several other books have also been written on this subject, but this book enjoys a prominent place among those.


Tafsir al-Durr al-Manthur

This was written by 'Allamah Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (died 910 Hijrah). Its full name is 'al-Durr al-Manth-ur fi al-Tafsir bi I'Ma'thur.' Here 'Allamah al-Suyuti has tried to collect all narration's about the tafsir of Qur'an he was able to find. Several hadeeth scholars such as Hafiz ibn Jarir, Imam Baghawi, Ibn Marduwayh, Ibn Hibban and Ibn Majah and others had already worked in this area on their own. 'Allamah al-Suyuti has assembled narration's presented by all of them in this book. But, rather than refer to complete chain of authorities along with narration's, he has found it sufficient to simply name the particular author who has presented that narration under his authority so that, if needed, one could go back to the work and investigate into the ultimate authority. Since his purpose was to put together a mass of narration's, as a result of which, all sorts of narration's, sound and weak, have found their way into his book. Hence, every narration allowed entry by him cannot be considered reliable without investigation into its authority. There are occasions when Allamah al-Suyuti does indicate with each narration the degree of its authority as well. But, as he is known to be fairly easy-going in respect of hadeeth critique, it is still difficult to fully rely on that too.


Al-Tafsir al-Mazhari

This was written by Qadi Thanaullah Panipati (died 1225 Hijrah). He has named this Tafsir as 'Al-Tafsir al-Mazhari, after the name of his spiritual master, Mirza Mazhar Jan-e-Janan Dehlavi. This Tafsir of his is very simple and clear, and extremely useful to locate brief explanations of Qur'anic verses. Along with the elucidation of Qur'anic words, he has also taken up related narration's in ample details, and in doing so, he has made an effort to accept narration's after much more scrutiny as compared with other commentaries.


Ruh al-Ma'ani

The full name of this Tafsir is 'Ruh al-Ma'ani fi Tafsir al-Quran al-'Azim wa al-Sab al-Mathani' and it was written by 'Allamah Mahmud al-Alusi (died 1270 Hijrah), the famous scholar of the last Period of Baghdad, and comprises of thirty volumes. He has made his best possible effort to make this Tafsir comprehensive. There are exhaustive discussions on language, syntax, letters, style, and on jurisprudence, articles of faith, scholastics, philosophy, astronomy, mysticism and related narratives of Traditions. He has made an attempt to leave no intellectual aspect pertaining to a verse unexplained. In the case of hadeeth narratives as well, the author of this work has been more cautious as compared to other commentators. From this angle, this is a very comprehensive commentary, and no future venture in connection with the Tafsir of the Qur'an can now n afford to ignore its help.

An Introduction to the Science of Tafseer

Goto TOP