Monday, September 19, 2016

Walid Saleh on the centrality of the tafsir tradition in Islamic intellectual history

What should be clear from this summary is that Ibn 'Āshūr was writing a history of tafsīr as an intellectual historytafsīr as part of the religious history of Islam — not as a string of biographies of exegetes. The attention given to the teaching and transmission of tafsīr was for him central. The gloss here becomes a major part of this history; after the 13th century the gloss became the main vehicle for scholarly creativity in tafsīr. These insights into the history and development of the genre are simply unmatched in the field. Ibn 'Āshūr’s analysis once and for all resolves the problem of assessing the cultural significance of the genre of Qur'ān commentary in Islam. It proves that tafsīr was central to the concerns of the scholarly elite, central to the educational system, and central in the formation of the worldview of Muslim intellectuals. The Qur'ān as a hermeneutical concern was central to Islamic culture, and this hermeneutical concern, this intellectual obsession, was independent of any apparent utilitarian function. The Qur'ān as a text was
the abiding concern of the educational system.
-Saleh, Walid. "Marginalia and peripheries: a Tunisian historian and the history of Quránic exegesis." Numen 58, no. 2-3 (January 1, 2011): 284-313, 308.