Ibn Taymiyah on the Books of Tafsir

In Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, Sheikh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyah was asked:

أي التفاسير أقرب إلى الكتاب والسنة ؟ الزمخشري ؟ أم القرطبي ؟ أم البغوي ؟ أو غير هؤلاء ؟

Which tafsir is nearest to the Qur’an and Sunnah: al-Zamakhshari, al-Qurtubi, al-Baghawi, or another one?

He responded by writing:

 وأما ” التفاسير ” التي في أيدي الناس فأصحها ” تفسير محمد بن جرير الطبري ” فإنه يذكر مقالات السلف بالأسانيد الثابتة وليس فيه بدعة ولا ينقل عن المتهمين كمقاتل بن بكير والكلبي والتفاسير غير المأثورة بالأسانيد كثيرة كتفسير عبد الرزاق وعبد بن حميد ووكيع وابن أبي قتيبة وأحمد بن حنبل وإسحاق بن راهويه . ـ

As for the the books of tafsir which are available to the people, then the most authentic of them is the tafsir of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari [Tafsir al-Tabari] (d. 310 H), for it mentions the statements of the salaf with the reliable chains of narrations, and there is neither bid’ah in it nor does he transmit from people who have been accussed of fabrication such as Muqaatil ibn Bakeer or al-Kalbi. And there are many books of tafsir which do not bring the narrations with chains such as the tafsir of ‘Abd al-Razzaaq [ibn Hammaam] (d. 211 H), ‘Abd ibn Humayd (d. 249 H), Wakee’ [ibn al-Jarraah] (d. 197 H), ibn Abi Qutaybah (d. 276 H), Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 H), and Ishaaq ibn Raahawayh (d. 238 H).

وأما ” التفاسير الثلاثة ” المسئول عنها فأسلمها من البدعة والأحاديث الضعيفة ” البغوي ” لكنه مختصر من ” تفسير الثعلبي ” وحذف منه الأحاديث الموضوعة والبدع التي فيه وحذف أشياء غير ذلك . ـ

As for the three tafseers which were inquired about, then the safest of them from bid’ah and weak ahaadeeth is al-Baghawi (d. 516 H), though it is abridged from Tafsir al-Tha’labi, and he [Imam al-Baghawi] removed the fabricated ahaadeeth and bid’ah therein from it, and omitted other things as well.

وأما ” الواحدي ” فإنه تلميذ الثعلبي وهو أخبر منه بالعربية ; لكن الثعلبي فيه سلامة من البدع وإن ذكرها تقليدا لغيره . وتفسيره و ” تفسير الواحدي البسيط والوسيط والوجيز ” فيها فوائد جليلة وفيها غث كثير من المنقولات الباطلة وغيرها . ـ

And as for al-Waahidi (d. 468 H), he was a pupil of al-Tha’labi (d. 427 H) and he was more knowledgeable than him in terms of the Arabic language, however in [Tafsir] al-Tha’labi there is safety from bid’ah even if he does make mention of [some of] it, following the example of others. In his tafsir and in the books of tafsir of al-Waahidi – al-Baseet and al-Waseet and al-Wajeez – there are great benefits and there is [also] much filth from false narrations and other issues.

وأما ” الزمخشري ” فتفسيره محشو بالبدعة وعلى طريقة المعتزلة من إنكار الصفات والرؤية والقول بخلق القرآن وأنكر أن الله مريد للكائنات وخالق لأفعال العباد وغير ذلك من أصول المعتزلة . ـ

And as for al-Zamakhshari (d. 538 H), then his tafsir is filled with bid’ah and it is on the way of the Mu’tazilah in terms of denial of the sifaat (attributes of Allah) and the ru’yah (i.e. that the believers will see Allah in the Hereafter), and saying that the Qur’an is created, and denying that Allah wills all created things or that He is the Creator of the actions of the slaves, and other than than from the fundamental principles of the Mu’tazilah.

[A more detailed discussion of the fundamental principles of the Mu’tazilah is omitted here. Those interested can read the entire discussion in Arabic here.]

 و ” تفسير القرطبي ” خير منه بكثير وأقرب إلى طريقة أهل الكتاب والسنة وأبعد من البدع وإن كان كل من هذه الكتب لا بد أن يشتمل على ما ينقد ; لكن يجب العدل بينها [ ص: 388 ] وإعطاء كل ذي حق حقه . ـ

And Tafsir al-Qurtubi (d. 671 H) is better than this by far and it is closer to the way of the People of the Book [i.e. People of the Qur’an] and Sunnah and further away from bid’ah. And of course all of these books inevitably contain something to be criticized, however one must be just concerning them and give each owner of rights his due rights.

و ” تفسير ابن عطية ” خير من تفسير الزمخشري وأصح نقلا وبحثا وأبعد عن البدع وإن اشتمل على بعضها ; بل هو خير منه بكثير ; بل لعله أرجح هذه التفاسير ; لكن تفسير ابن جرير أصح من هذه كلها . ـ

And Tafsir ibn ‘Atiyyah (d. 541 H) is better than Tafsir al-Zamakhshari and more sound in terms of citing the texts and research, and further removed from bid’ah even though it does contain some – but still it is better than the other by a long shot. Rather, perhaps it may even be the most preferable of these tafseers; however Tafsir ibn Jareer is more accurate than all of these.

وثم تفاسير أخر كثيرة جدا كتفسير ابن الجوزي والماوردي . ـ

And then there are many other tafseers, such as Tafsir ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597 H) and Tafsir al-Maawardi (d. 450 H).

[Majmoo’ al-Fataawa 13/386-389]

Translator’s Note: Ibn Taymiyah (d. 728 H) is of course only referring to the books of the tafsir which were available or wide-spread during his time. For this reason, he does not mention other sound books such as Tafsir ibn Kathir, which was authored by his student Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir (d. 774 H), or more recent renowned works such as the respective tafsirs of Imam al-Shawkaani (d. 1255 H), Imam al-Sa’di (d. 1376 H) or Imam al-Shinqitee (d. 1393 H) or others. This post should therefore be taken as informative, and not as a definitive list or ranking of the books of tafsir, baarakAllaahu feekum.

Please visit our About the Books of Tafsir section to read statements from a number of contemporary scholars regarding the books of tafsir and tafsir-related issues.

For more detailed information regarding some of the well-known books of tafsir, please visit and explore our Mufassir Profiles page.

To read more from Tafsir al-Baghawi on this site, click here.

To read more from Tafsir al-Qurtubi on this site, click here.

See also: A Note on Differing Reports in Tafsir: Ibn Taymiyah

See also: The Sahabah and Tabi’oon known for their Tafsir: al-Suyooti

See also: The Conditions for Making Tafsir: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: The Importance of Tafsir and its Sources: Sheikh al-Fawzan

See also: Turning Away from the Sources of Tafsir: Ibn Taymiyah

8 thoughts on “Ibn Taymiyah on the Books of Tafsir

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