Tafsir (Interpretation)

Abdulkarim Behjatpour

Tafsir (Interpretation): Study of the concept of Tafsir in Historical Periods, Its Conditions, and Authenticity

Tafsir” which is sometimes used to refer to the science of tafsir (interpretation) and some other times to the activity of tafsir (interpretation) itself is an attempt made by the interpreter, as much as his ability allows, to find the intent of God- the Exalted- in the Quranic verses.

Though the Holy Quran says that it has been revealed in clear Arabic and includes all those things which human beings need in their way toward happiness and perfection, there has been need to tafsir both in the time of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and after him; according to the verse 44 of the Surah Nahl, the Holy Quran had to be explained by the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Interpreters consider the most important features of the Holy Quran which need to be interpreted as follows: brief expressions, presence of ambiguous verses in the Holy Quran, explanation of brief expressions of the Holy Quran, and new guiding aspects.

Authenticity of interpretation and finding the intent of God- the Exalted- are among the most important points of interpretation. The importance of the point lies in the fact that, according to both Shi’is and Sunnis, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) has prohibited interpretation of the Quran by personal opinion, and said that this would lead the interpreter to Hell as a sign of disbelief in the Quran, and if it (the interpretation) did not correspond to facts, there would be no reward.

Authentic interpretation is based on five foundations:

  • Appearances of the Quranic verses and uses made of principles and sciences which concern discovery of epiphanies and remove ambiguity of the Quranic expressions;
  • Clear and explicit Quranic verses which are references to reply questions possibly posed about expressions and content of the Holy Quran;
  • Hadiths of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) whose truth has been proved since they have been successively transmitted;
  • Hadiths of the Holy Prophet’s descendents (pbut) obtained through correct chains of transmission and based on certain evidence;
  • Innate reason which has remained immune from deviations and false ideas, and benefits from sciences and experiences to understand the Quranic propositions.