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Module Two; Unit 4:

Usul al-Tafsir

Overview

The Study of usul al-tafsir, the principles of Quranic exegesis, is part of the broader subject of 'ulum al-Quran, the Qur'anic disciplines. The goal is to become acquainted with the essential aspects of the Scripture and rules of interpretation, so as to avoid erring in one's understanding. At the introductory level, it is important to gain an overview of the main features of the sacred text and the disciplines that are connected to it, so as to lay the foundation for the technical studies to follow.

Primary Text

Primary Text:

  • al-Tashil li 'ulum al-Tanzil by Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi (d. 741 AH)

About the Text:

The first part of the introduction of Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi's (d. 741 AH) al-Tashil li 'ulum al-Tanzil will be read in Arabic along with its translation. The teacher will comment, using the text to introduce relevant discussions in the field.

The text was chosen because Ibn Juzayy refers to the first part of his introduction as consisting of 'comprehensive general principles within beneficial sections'. This is an apt description, as this text gives a sound accessible overview of the subject. Moreover, the Arabic is not too difficult, the length of 15 pages is manageable within the time available without rushing and the majority of it has been translated and is freely available online.

About the Author

Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi (1321 - 1357). He was a scholar, writer of poetry, history, and law from Al-Andalus. Ibn Juzayy wrote the Rihla of Ibn Battuta in 1352-55.He wrote many religious works such as his Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah or The Laws of Jurisprudence a comparative manual of the jurisprudence of the five Sunni madhhabs (Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi`i, Hanbali, Dhahiri) with emphasis on the Maliki school. He is also famous for his tafsir of the Qur'an, his book on legal theory  Aqrab al-Wusul `ala `Ilm al-Usul  or The Nearest of Paths to the Knowledge of the Fundamentals of Islamic Jurisprudence. He died in Fez in 1357 two years after the completion of the Rihla of Ibn Battuta.

Teaching Method

Teaching Method

Each class will consist of a 55 minute lecture, where the primary text will be read in Arabic along with its translation, commentary and relevance to the wider field. There will be an encouragement for the teaching to be interactive, with questions both posed of the students and welcomed from them. The teacher may also use power point presentations and post recorded webinars for study aid.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • understand the history of the development of Quranic exegesis
  • understand the Quran through a methodical approach to its interpretation
  • understand the terminology and general principles used in Quranic exegesis
  • analyse and evaluate interpretations of the Quran in text and other literature
  • apply exegetical methods to the interpretation of the Qur'an
  • recognise different exegetical types

Syllabus

The module will cover the following topics:

  • Introduction to the methodology of Quranic exegesis

  • Historic development of Quranic exegesis

  • The notion of wahy (revelation)

  • Transmission of the Quranic revelation

  • Form, structure and coherence of the Quran

  • Occasions of revelation (asbab al-nuzul) and Isra'iliyyat

  • Muhkam and mutashabih (clear and ambiguous verses) and the notion of naskh (abrogation)

  • Western scholarship of the Quran

  • The concept of abrogation

  • The different readings (qira'at)

  • Categories of Qur'anic rhetoric

  • The inimitability (i'jaz) of the Qur'an

  • The distinction between Meccan and Medinan surahs.

  • The fundamental thematic meanings contained within the Qur'an.

Recommended Reading list 

It would be useful for students to have at least read:

  • Ahmad von Denffer's An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'an. This is both easily purchasable and available online.
  • Those wishing to go further could have a look at Yasir Qadhi's more comprehensive book of the same name, which is also available online.
  • Jalal-Al-Din Al-Suyuti’s, The Perfect Guide to the Sciences of the Qur’an. Al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum Al-Qur’an; Ithaca Press, 2011

  • Shaykh Akram's Mabadi' fi usul al-tafsir is a useful companion text.

Further study

There are a number of texts that could follow this introductory study. Al-Raghib al-Asfahani's Muqadimmah al-tafsir, Ibn Taymiyyah's Muqadimmah fi usul al-tafsir and Shah Waliullah's al-Fawz al-kabir could all be studied, as well as modern texts.

Assessment

This course will involve one short in-course essay and end-of-course written examination.

Teacher Profile

 

Dr Ibrahim Harvey has spent years studying the classical Islamic disciplines under a variety of traditionally-trained scholars, including Shaykh Akram Nadwi, Shaykh Samer al-Nass, Habib Kazim al-Saqqaf and Shaykh Atabek al-Nasafi. He was also blessed with the opportunity to take knowledge from some of the senior scholars at Al-Azhar in Cairo.

He completed his doctorate in Quranic studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, under the supervision of Professor M. A. S. Abdel Haleem and has worked as a Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS. Dr Harvey has presented his research at academic conferences within London and Edinburgh and is preparing his first book on the subject of justice in the Quran for publication with an academic press.

 

Fees & Registration

For details on Fees, Discounts, Financial Asisstance and registration please visit our Registration Page

 

 
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