— al-Saabooni —

-Name of the Mufassir:

He is Muhammad ‘Ali al-Saabooni. He was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1930. He later graduated from al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt in 1954 and returned to Syria to teach. In the early 1960s, he began teaching at the King ‘Abd al-‘Azeez University and Umm al-Quraa’ University, both of which are located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. al-Saabooni has written many works in the field of tafsir, including original works and summaries of well-known commentaries.

-Name of the Book:

Safwah al-Tafaasir [صفوة التفاسير], with the subtitle, “Tafsir of the Noble Qur’an, Combining both Narration-Based and Insight-Based Explanations, Taken from the Most Trust-worthy Books of Tafsir

*Note: al-Saabooni has written a number of books in the field of tafsir, including an original work specifically dealing with the ayaat al-ahkaam (verses containing legal rulings) and a number of abridgements of well-known commentaries. This profile is only dealing with Safwah al-Tafaasir.

-General Description of the Book:

As indicated in the book’s title and subtitle, al-Saabooni set out to author a book of tafsir with combined the choice cuts and portions of the rich library of tafsir literature. As such, his work includes many quotes from a wide variety of different Qur’anic explanations, ranging from the Salafi explanations of Ibn Jareer al-Tabari and ibn Kathir, to Shi’a explanations of al-Ridhaa’ and al-Tabrisi, to the Mu’tazilah explanation of al-Zamakhshari, to a number of Ash’ari explanations including al-Razi, Abu Sa’ood, Abu Hayyaan and others. This work was meant to present some of the benefits of previous works to a more general audience. The tafsir is made up of three volumes.

At the beginning of each surah, al-Saabooni would first briefly mention the themes and topics of the chapter. Then for each ayah or group of ayaat, he would include the following six or so sections of his explanation. He would first discuss the relation of those ayaat to the surrounding verses and their role in the larger context, then he would move on to a brief discussion of the vocabulary used in the passage. He would then mention the reasons for revelation (Asbaab al-Nuzool) is applicable before explaining the overall meaning of the verses. He would then discuss the aspects of linguistic eloquence (balaaghah) found in the verses before mentioning any derived points of benefits or subtle points of wisdom to be found in them. The author would repeat this set format for each grouping of ayaat throughout his tafsir.


The author follows the Ash’ari theological school, meaning that he interprets the names and attributes of Allah in a manner contrary to their apparent meanings and contrary to the understanding of the salaf. He also interprets some parts of the Qur’an to be metaphorical, and not literal, in contrast to the understanding of the salaf. His tafsir includes a number of quotes from previous mufassiroon in support of Mu’tazilah and Ash’ari understandings without any clarifying notes to point out their incorrect beliefs.

al-Saabooni also misrepresents the views of some of the salafi scholars of tafsir such as ibn Jareer and ibn Kathir in his selective quoting, falsely affirming the views of latter-day scholars in their works.

-Stance regarding isnaads (chains of narration):

al-Saabooni does not list the full chains of narrations in his tafsir but instead might mention the hadeeth source book without providing a specific reference. In many places, he provides incorrect references, for instance he might attribute a hadeeth to the Saheehayn (i.e. al-Bukhari and Muslim) while it is only in one of them or neither of them. He also declares some authentic narrations to be inauthentic and some inauthentic narrations to be authentic.

He includes an abundance of narrations regarding the reasons for revelation (Asbaab al-Nuzool) without providing any indication of their authenticity or lack thereof.

When referencing and quoting from previous books of tafsir, al-Saabooni would provide the full reference to the original work. However, when referencing the explanations of ibn Jareer al-Tabari and ibn Kathir he would provide the reference for his own abridgements of these works instead of referencing the originals.

-Stance regarding poetry, linguistic analysis, grammar, etc.:

Linguistic analysis was a prominent aspect of Safwah al-Tafaasir, particularly in the areas of vocabulary and balaaghah (linguistic eloquence). al-Saabooni drew from a number of previous works of tafsir known for their linguistic prowess, such as those of al-Zamakhshari, al-Razi, Abu Hayyaan, and others. Despite the work being intended primarily for the lay person, al-Saabooni does regularly employ specialized linguistic terminology throughout his tafsir without explaining these terms.


تعقيبات وملاحظات على كتاب صفوة التفاسير للشيخ صالح الفوزان

الردود للشيخ بكر أبو زيد

مقدمة صفوة التفاسير لمحمد علي الصابوني

Back to Mufassir Profiles Index

See also: Advice Regarding the Books of Tafsir with Distorted ‘Aqeedah

See also: Books of Tafsir which are Advised Against

See also: Notes on the Book “Safwah al-Tafaasir”: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan