Tafsir of the Quran is a well developed and important science for every muslim to be well acquainted with. It basically is the explanation or interpretation of the Quran and is sometimes translated as commentary or exegesis.

Importance of Tafsir.

Tafsir is very important in helping the reader to grasp the meaning and implication of the ayah(verses) of the Quran, and also for clarity of any legal rulings that may be in the text.

Origin of Tafsir.

Tafsir began during the time of Prophet Muhammad(SAW). There are various types which are:

  1. The first was the explanation of the Quran by the Quran itself. In this case, a verse that required some explanation would further be explained by another verse or part of the Quran.
  2. The second type was the explanation of the Quran by Prophet Muhammad(SAW). Sometimes, the Prophet would ask Angel Jibril to explain a verse to him. In other cases, the sohabas(companions) would ask the Prophet to explain a verse to them and he would do so. Thus, the companions gained knowledge of tafsir from him directly.
  3. Next in line to both time and reliability came the Tafsir of the Quran by some companions of the Prophet(SAW). After the passing of the Prophet, the Sohabas were able to pass on to others the explanation of the verses which they had learned from the Prophet. Among those sohabas, Ibn Abbas was generally considered the most knowledgeable

Development of Tafsir.

Another type of tafsir developed a few years later. It was not wholly a chain of transmitters of the explanation, but also made use of ijtihad(independent judgement and reasoning) by knowledgeable Islamic scholars along with their vast understanding of Arabic grammar and meaning of words. Among the most famous of these is the Tafsir of:

  1. Al-Taban- died 922 AC
  2. Ibn Kathir- died 1373 AC
  3. Al-Zamkhshan- died 144 AC
  4. Al-Razi- died 1209 AC
  5. Al-Baghdadi- died 1260 AC
  6. Tafsir Jalalain- named after two scholars both named Jalal Din-al-Mahalli(died 1459 AC) and Al-Sayuh(died 1505 AC).


Translations of the Quran.

The language of the Quran is in Arabic. However, nowadays the great majority of the muslims are not Arabs, do not have Arabic as a mother tongue, or do not have opportunity to learn enough Arabic to be able to understand the meaning of the Quran in its original language.

Since the Quran is first and foremost a message of guidance, it is essential to translate it into other languages so that both muslims and non-muslims may understand its message, and so that Muslims may know the meaning of what they recite in Arabic when they pray or recite the Quran.

Therefore, an effort has been made to translate the Quran into other languages. In doing so, much of the beauty in Quranic style in Arabic has been lost. Also, in some cases, the new language has no precise or adequate words to translate the full meaning of the Arabic expressions. Nevertheless, there are some acceptable translations which for many years have drawn non-muslims to accept Islam and its teachings. Such translations are drawn from Tafsir, since they require the translator to choose what he understands is the meaning of the verse, and where necessary to add a commentary, to make clear the meaning.

Quality of a translator.

  1. A good translator of the Quran must be muslim whose own practices of Islam is guided by the Quran and Sunnah.
  2. He/she should have a vast knowledge of the Arabic language and the language he/she wishes to translate to.
  3. He should have a good background in the Quranic sciences such as Tafsir and Hadith.


Among the most useful complete translation of the Quran into English are thereof:

  1. Abdullah Yusuf Ali – translation and commentary.
  2. Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall – translation only.
  3. Muhammad Asad – translation and commentary.
  4. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al-Hilali
  5. Muhammad Muhsin Khan- translation only


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