Transmitted Explanations of the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

In part of his well-known work of Usool al-Tafsiral-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, sheikh Badr al-Deen Muhammad al-Zarkashi wrote:

واعلم أن القرآن قسمان : أحدهما ورد تفسيره بالنقل عمن يعتبر تفسيره ، وقسم لم يرد . والأول ثلاثة أنواع : إما أن يرد التفسير عن النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – أو عن الصحابة أو عن رؤوس التابعين ـ

You should know that the Qur’an can be divided into two categories:

1. That for which an explanation has been transmitted regarding what it means.
2. That for which nothing has been transmitted.

The first category has three sub-groups:

1a. Either an explanation has been transmitted from the Prophet himself (ﷺ)
1b. Or from the Sahabah
1c. Or from the leading scholars of the Taabi’oon

فالأول يبحث فيه عن صحة السند ، والثاني ينظر في تفسير الصحابي ، فإن فسره من حيث اللغة فهم أهل اللسان فلا شك في اعتمادهم ، وإن فسره بما شاهده من الأسباب [ ص: 313 ] والقرائن فلا شك فيه ؛ وحينئذ إن تعارضت أقوال جماعة من الصحابة ، فإن أمكن الجمع فذاك ، وإن تعذر قدم ابن عباس ؛ لأن النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – بشره بذلك حيث قال : اللهم علمه التأويل ، وقد رجح الشافعي قول زيد في الفرائض ، لقوله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : أفرضكم زيد . فإن تعذر الجمع جاز للمقلد أن يأخذ بأيها شاء ، وأما الثالث وهم رؤوس التابعين إذا لم يرفعوه إلى النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – ولا إلى أحد من الصحابة – رضي الله عنهم – فحيث جاز التقليد فيما سبق ، فكذا هنا ، وإلا وجب الاجتهاد . ـ

In the first of these three sub-groups, one should look for the soundness of the chain of transmission.

In the second sub-group, one should consider the explanation of the companion. If he explains something from the angle of linguistics, then the Sahabah were the experts of the language, so there is no doubt that we rely on them in that. If he explained it according to the reasons for the revelation of that ayah or the circumstances surrounding it which he himself witnessed, then there is no doubt about this line of explanation either. Then, if there is some clashing among the positions of the Sahabah, if it is possible to reconcile the different opinions this should be done. However, if this is not possible, then precedence should be given to ibn ‘Abbaas, because the Prophet (ﷺ) gave him glad tidings of this when he said, “O Allah, teach him the interpretation of the Qur’an.” And al-Shaafi’ would give more weight to the position of Zaid ibn Thaabit  when it came to matters of inheritance, due to the Prophet’s statement, “The most knowledgeable of you in inheritance is Zaid.” So if you are unable to reconcile the different positions of the Sahabah, then it is permissible for the anyone who cannot weigh them to pick whichever one he chooses.

And the third sub-group is the scholars of the Taabi’oon. If there is nothing transmitted which goes back to the Prophet (ﷺ), nor anything which goes back to any of the Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them), then just as taqleed was permitted in the previous situation for those who are not able to weigh the merits of the different positions, it is also permitted here. However, if one is able to weigh the different positions, he must do so.

الثاني : ما لم يرد فيه نقل عن المفسرين ، وهو قليل ، وطريق التوصل إلى فهمه النظر إلى مفردات الألفاظ من لغة العرب ومدلولاتها واستعمالها بحسب السياق ، وهذا يعتني به الراغب كثيرا في كتاب ” المفردات ” فيذكر قيدا زائدا على أهل اللغة في تفسير مدلول اللفظ ؛ لأنه اقتنصه من السياق . ـ

As for the second category of the Qur’an – that for which there is no explanation transmitted from those who explained the Qur’an – then this category is quite small, and the way to arrive at an understanding of something from this category is to look at the wording of the phrase according to the Arabic language, what it indicates, and how it is used in light of the surrounding context. This was something which al-Raghib al-Isfahani gave a significant amount of attention to in his book al-Mufradaat, for he mentions more about what the wordings indicate than linguists typically do, because he draws on the context of the wordings to explain them.

[al-Burhan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’an 2/313-314. I originally found this material quoted in the book al-Tafsir bi’l-Ma’thoor by sheikh Muhammad Bazmool]

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

See also: Different Categories of Tafsir from the Companions: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: The Types of Tafsir: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: Narration-based Tafsir before Opinion-based Tafsir: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: Five Distinguishing Features of the Tafsir of the Companions: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: Non-Canonical Recitations Can Help Explain the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

6 thoughts on “Transmitted Explanations of the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

  1. Pingback: Responding to Some Current Misconceptions in Tafsir: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: “Good speech ascends to Allah and righteous action raises it”: Narration-based Tafsir | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: Different Categories of Tafsir from the Companions: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: The Types of Tafsir: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool | Tulayhah

  5. Pingback: And Tell the Believing Women Not to Show off Their Adornment, Except for What is Apparent: ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

  6. Pingback: Learning the Apparent Meanings of the Qur’an Before the Deeper Meanings: al-Zarkashi | Tulayhah

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