‘Ulûm al Qûr’an #6 – Tafsîr through the Sunnah
Taken from the Book, ‘Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an’, published by al-Hidaayah Ltd, and can be purchased online at www.Islaam.Biz
After the tafsîr of the Qur’ân by the Qur’ân itself the second source of tafsîr is tafsîr by the Sunnah. It must be mentioned that even though the Sunnah is taken to be the ‘second’ source of tafsîr, it is in fact of equal importance to the Qur’ân. In other words, a person wishing to understand the Qur’ân must turn to the Sunnah in order to understand it correctly. The Qur’ân and Sunnah must be taken together to arrive at a proper understanding of a verse.
In fact, one of the primary roles of the Prophet (saws) was to explain the meanings of the Qur’ân to mankind. Allâh says,
|And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad (saws) the Remembrance, so that you may clearly explain to mankind what has been revealed to them, and so that they may give thought [16:44]|
Therefore, not only was the job of the Prophet (saws) to convey the literal text of the Qur’ân, he also had to convey its explanation as well.
How Much of the Qurân was Explained?
The question arises, then, as to how much of the Qur’ân was actually explained by the Prophet (saws) ? In other words, do there exist narrations from the Prophet (saws) concerning the interpretation of every single verse, and if not, then how is the previous quoted verse of the Qur’ân understood?
The scholars of Islâm were divided into two opinions with regards to this issue. Shaykh al-Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 A.H.) was of the view that the Prophet (saws) explained all of the Qur’ân, whereas Jalâl ad-Dîn as-Suyûtî (d. 911 AH.) claimed that the Prophet (saws) only explained a small portion of it. In fact, both of these opinions are correct once the intent of both sides is understood. Those who claimed that the Prophet (saws) only explained a small portion of the Qur’ân meant that there do not exist very many verbal narrations from the Prophet (saws) concerning the detailed explanation of every single verse in the Qur’ân. On the contrary, as-Suyûtî only managed to find a few hundred narrations from the Prophet (saws) (including weak and fabricated ones) in which he (saws) explicitly interpreted a verse.
On the other hand, what Ibn Taymiyyah meant was that the Prophet (saws) left us all the necessary knowledge needed in order to properly understand the Qur’ân. As ‘Aa’ishah reported, the Prophet’s (saws) character embodied the Qur’ân. Therefore, even though there might not exist many explicit statements from the Prophet (saws) concerning tafsîr, the Prophet (saws) did leave us with the information and methodology necessary for understanding the Qur’ân. Therefore, it is essential to understand the Qur’ân not only in light of the explicit narrations of the Prophet (saws) on the Qur’ân, but also in light of all of the hadîth of the Prophet (saws), whether they are concerning beliefs or laws, and in light of the actions of the Prophet (saws), since his sayings and actions can be considered to be embodying the laws of the Qur’ân.