ABOUT THE BOOK:
The Commentary on the Qur'an commonly called Tafsir al-Tabari, is imam al-Tabari’s second great work the commentary on the Qur'an, which was marked by the same fullness of detail as the Annals. Abul-Qaasim Ibn 'Aqil Al-Warraq says: " Imām Ibn Jarir once said to his students: “Are you'll ready to write down my lesson on the Tafsir (commentary) of the entire Holy Quran?" They enquired as to how lengthy it would be. "30 000 pages"! he replied. They said: "This would take a long time and cannot be completed in one lifetime. He therefore made it concise and kept it to 3000 pages (note, this was in reference to the old days when they used ink and hard-paper which was a bit long format today).
It took him seven years to finish it from the year 283 until 290. It is said that it is the most voluminous Athari Tafsir (i.e., based on hadith not intellect) existent today so well received by the Ummah that it survived to this day intact due to its popularity and widely printed copies available worldwide. Scholars such as Baghawi and Suyuti used it largely. It was used in compiling the Tafsir ibn Kathir which is often referred to as Mukhtasar Tafsir at-Tabari. It is the earliest major running commentary of the Quran to have survived in its original form.
Tabari has relied on narrations, including narrations and comments of sahabah and tabi'in where necessary. Tabari supplies the chain of narrations for the reports included in the commentary, sometimes elaborating on the trustworthiness of narrators. Narratives are selected based on their authenticity; a notable example is the rejection of the same historical sources he had already used for his historical works. al-Tabari incorporated an earlier commentary by ‘Abd al-Razzaq b. Hamman al-Himyari al-San‘ani (d. 211/827) in its entirety into his work, it has been argued that Al-Tabari has also used other subsequently lost commentaries.
Interpretations start with "al-qawlu fī ta'wīli qawlihi ta'ālā" (English: The tawil of this word of Allah is) for every verse. Then hadith and other previous interpretations are stated and classified according to their compatibility to each other. Interpretation using other verses and Arabic language is favoured, qualifying this tafsir as riwaya, but the inclusion of critiques and reason is an integral part of the books unique character; as Tabari has refrained from interpretation using merely his own opinion and opposed those who do so. Lexical meanings of words are given, and their use in Arabic culture is examined. Tabari's linguistic views are based on the school of Basra. Opinions of linguists are given where appropriate. Evidence from Arabic poetry is used frequently, sometimes with its origins.
Tabari is also a qira'at scholar, reflected in his opinions on qira'at debates in his book. Choices of qira'at are usually given according to the Kufa school. Sometimes both qira'at are preserved, leaving the choice to the reader. Although rare, Tabari has included isra'iliyat occasionally in his book. Given only as notice, this information is not dwelled upon, usually left for the understanding of the reader.
In this print, Shaykh al-Turki has expanded the work even further by adding annotations based on hadith and references mentioned. He clearly points out additional and noteworthy comments on lexicons and linguistic futures.
ABOUT IMAM AL-TABARI:
Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (224–310 AH; 839–923 AD) was a prominent and influential Persian scholar, historian and exegete of the Qur'an from Tabaristan, modern Mazandaran Province in Iran, who composed all his works in Arabic. Today, he is best known for his expertise in tafsir, fiqh, and history, but he has been described as "an impressively prolific polymath. He wrote on such subjects as poetry, lexicography, grammar, ethics, mathematics, and medicine." His most influential and best known works are his Qur'anic commentary known as Tafsir al-Tabari and his historical chronicle Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk (History of the Prophets and Kings), often referred to Tarikh al-Tabari. Although it eventually became extinct, al-Tabari's madhhab flourished among ulama for two centuries after his death. It was usually designated by the name Jariri.
When al-Ṭabarī was young he demonstrated a precocious intellect and journeyed from his native town to study in the major centres of learning in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. Over the course of many years he collected oral and written material from numerous scholars and libraries for his later work. Al-Ṭabarī enjoyed sufficient financial independence to enable him to devote the latter part of his life to teaching and writing in Baghdad, the capital of the ʿAbbāsid caliphate, where he died in 923. The times in which he lived were marked by political disorder, social crisis, and philosophical-theological controversy. Discontent of diverse cause and circumstance brought open rebellion to the very heart of the caliph’s empire, and, like all movements of socioeconomic origin in medieval Islam, sought legitimacy in religious expression directed against the official credo of Sunni orthodoxy.
Tafsir al-Tabari: His life’s labour began with the Qurʾān Commentary and was followed by the History of Prophets and Kings. Al-Ṭabarī’s History became so popular that the Sāmānid prince Manṣūr ibn Nūḥ had it translated into Persian (c. 963). In the Commentary, al-Ṭabarī’s method of composition was to follow the Qurʾān text word by word, juxtaposing all of the juridical, lexicographical, and historical explanations transmitted in reports from the Prophet ﷺ, his companions, and their followers. To each report (hadith) was affixed a chain of “transmitters” (isnād) purporting to go back to the original informant. Divergent reports were seldom reconciled, the scholar’s only critical tool being his judgment as to the soundness of the isnād and not of the content of the Hadith. Thus plurality of interpretation was admitted on principle.
Tarikh al-Tabari: The History commenced with the Creation, followed by accounts regarding the patriarchs, prophets, and rulers of antiquity. The history of the Sāsānian kings came next. For the period of the Prophet’s ﷺ life, al-Ṭabarī drew upon the extensive researches of 8th-century Medinan scholars. Although pre-Islamic influences are evident in their works, the Medinan perspective of Muslim history evolved as a theocentric (god-centred) universal history of prophecy culminating in the career of Muhammad and not as a continuum of tribal wars and values. The sources for al-Ṭabarī’s History covering the years from the Prophet’s death to the fall of the Umayyad dynasty (661–750 ce) were short monographs, each treating a major event or the circumstances attending the death of an important person. Al-Ṭabarī supplemented this material with historical reports embodied in works on genealogy, poetry, and tribal affairs. Further, details of the early ʿAbbāsid period were available to him in a few histories of the caliphs that unfortunately have come down only in the fragments preserved by al-Ṭabarī. Almost all of these accounts reflected an Iraqi perspective of the community; coupled with this is al-Ṭabarī’s scant attention to affairs in Egypt, North Africa, and Muslim Spain, so that his History does not have the secular “universal” outlook sometimes attributed to it. From the beginning of the Muslim era (dated from 622, the date of the hijrah—the Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina), the History is arranged as a set of annals according to the years after the hijrah. It terminates in the year 915.
Imam at-Tabari died at the age of 85 in the year 923 A.C. (310 H).