— Ibn Kathir —
-Name of the Mufassir:
He was Abu’l-Fidaa’, Ismaa’eel ibn ‘Umar ibn Kathir, al-Dimishqi, al-Shafi’ee. He was known by the title al-Haafidh, due to his expertise in the field of hadeeth. He was also known by the honorific title of ‘Imaad al-Deen [Pillar of the Faith]. He was a respected expert in several disciplines, including hadeeth, fiqh, tafseer, and history. He was also a student of Ibn Taymiyah. He died in the year 774Ah/1373CE.
-Name of the Book:
Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘Atheem [تفسير القرآن العظيم].
It is most commonly referred to as Tafsir ibn Kathir.
-General Description of the Book:
The tafsir of Ibn Kathir is generally regarded by the scholars as one of greatest books of narration-based tafsir, often being cited as second only after the tafsir of ibn Jareer al-Tabari. Ibn Kathir paid great attention to including the tafsir of the salaf, and using the ahaadeeth of the Prophet and the statements of his companions to explain the ayaat of Allah, as well as using his proficiency in the Hadeeth sciences to make the appropriate comments about the merits and authenticity of the transmitted statements.
His work is also distinguished by a lengthy and valuable introduction in which he lays out the principles and sources of tafsir – much of was taken from his teacher ibn Taymiyah’s book al-Muqaddimah Fee Usool al-Tafsir. He grounded his tafsir in the methodology of first explaining the Qur’an by means of the Qur’an itself, then by the statements of the Prophet, then according to the statements of the Sahabah, and then according to the statements of the Tabi’oon.
In general, Ibn Kathir followed a pattern in his tafsir. He would first mention an ayah or group of ayaat, and then provide a brief synopsis of their contents in easy-to-understand language. If possible, he would then mention a similar or related ayah which would itself provide an explanation of the ayah under discussion, and this is a hallmark of his work. He would then mention any relevant ahaadeeth, along with notes on their authenticity and narrators as needed. He would then list the statements of the Sahabah, Tabi’oon and the scholars of the salaf who followed them. After mentioning the different opinions, he would regularly provide his own statement as to the most correct opinion. Ibn Kathir would often attempt to reconcile any differences of interpretations if possible.
He was salafi in ‘aqeedah, which is not surprising given that he was a student of ibn Taymiyah. He affirmed Allah’s names and attributes without any distortion or false interpretations.
-Stance regarding isnaads (chains of narration):
He would mention the full chains of narration for the ahaadeeth he included. In most cases he would comment on their authenticity or lack thereof, and he would also make remarks about certain narrators in the chain. Unlike ibn Jareer, he would generally not include the full chains of narration for statements of the Sahabah or Taabi’oon. He was an expert in the sciences of al-hadeeth, as is apparent throughout the text.
-Stance regarding Fiqh (legal) Rulings:
Ibn Kathir would mention the differing fiqh positions as well as the statements of the scholars and their evidences while discussing the ayaat related to legal rulings. In some cases, he would divert from strict tafsir in order to discuss some related issues, but he did not make a habit of this in contrast to the practices of some previous mufassiroon. In general, he would not elongate his fiqh discussions, and instead would refer the reader to the books of fiqh for further details.
-Stance regarding Qiraa’aat (different recitations):
As ibn Kathir indicated in his tafsir, he would generally only mention the different qiraa’aat in cases where they served to further clarify the meaning of an ayah or its implications in terms of legal rulings.
-Stance regarding Israa’eeliyyaat (Judaeo-Christian traditions):
His tafsir is notable for generally avoiding the mention of Israa’eeliyyaat narrations and even cautioning against their use in his introduction. This was in contrast to many other books of tafsir which had preceded his. Ibn Kathir would occasionally mention Israa’eeliyyaat narrations but followed them with some comments on their validity and/or contents in most instances.
-Stance regarding poetry, linguistic analysis, grammar, etc.:
Grammar, linguistics, and examples from poetry were only mentioned sparingly in this tafsir.
القول المختصر المبين في مناهج المفسرين لمحمد بن حمد الحمود النجدي
التفسير والمفسرين لمحمد حسين الدهبي
التيسير لمعرفة المشهور من أسانيد وكتب التفسير لعلي بن أحمد الرازحي
منهج الحافظ ابن كثير في القراءات في تفسيره – د. حسين بن محمد بن صالح العواجي
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See also: Recommended Books of Tafsir