What Is Tafsir in Islam - All You Need To Know!

What Is Tafsir? – Meaning, History, Importance, Types, Books, And More!

If you want to learn the Quran, you should know Tafsir in Islam and other related topics such as the types of Tafsir in Islam, which means interpretation of the verses. The explanation of the Quran is indispensable for a better and deep understanding of the meanings of the Quran. Reading the translation of the verse in English isn’t enough for you to discover the accurate meaning.

Explaining the meaning of verses was the role of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) after the revelation of the Quran, as his role wasn’t just for conveying Allah’s messages. 

Although the Quran’s language is Arabic, Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula didn’t get a complete understanding of the Quran’s meanings. So They relied on the interpretation of the Messenger (PBUH). This led to the existence of Tafsir in Islam.

The explanation of the Quran helped Muslims to comprehend Islam’s principles, the oneness of Allah, the obligations, and the forbidden matters they must avert.

The companions appreciated the importance of the narrations of the prophet Muhammed (PBUH) that included explanations of verses, so many of them narrated his teachings to Muslims such as Abu Huraira and Anas Ibn Malik -may Allah be pleased with them-.

What is Tafsir meaning in Islam?

Tafsir meaning in Islam is the explanation of the words of Allah “The Quran”. Tafsir is one of the Islamic sciences related to the revelation of the Quran and is based on the explanation of verses’ meanings.

The derivation of the Arabian word “Tafsir” is “Fassara”, which means in Arabic expounding, clarification, and elucidation.

This understanding would help you before moving into more details such as the types and books of tafsir, you should grasp the meaning of Tafsir in Islam First.

The History of Tafsir in Islam

The history of Tafsir in Islam starts with Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) is the first and fundamental source of the Quran’s interpretation. After the messenger’s death, the companions took over the responsibility of clarifying the actual verses’ meanings. 

They witnessed the revelation of the Quran with the prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and understood the reasons for the revelation of verses.

The companions depended on the teachings of the prophet Muhammed (PBUH) to explain the Quran to their students. The Most prominent companions who cared for the Quran explanation are Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Zayd Ibn Thaabit, Ali Ibn Abee Taalib -may Allah be pleased with them-

After the companion’s death, their students devoted their lives to the explanation. They are called “the successors”.They depended on the sources of their companions in interpreting the Quran. The sources they used were the Quran, the statements of the prophet Muhammed (PBUH) “Sunnah’and the explanation of the companions.

To teach students the meaning of the Quran, they established centers for learning in three cities. They were in Mecca, Medina, and Koofah.

Importance of Tafsir in Islam

There are further benefits of the Quran’s interpretation besides the explanation of the verses’ meanings that would show the importance of Tafsir in Islam:

1. Learning the history of Islam 

As you understand the meanings behind the verses, you’ll find out the history of Islam. With the interpretation of the Quran, you’ll discover the stories of the prophets and old nations.

2. A reason for converting to Islam

For non-Muslims, reading the interpretations of the Quran will give them an accurate and proper knowledge of the basics of Islam and its principles. This benefit will prompt them to convert to Islam.

3. Learning how to implement the laws

Once you understand the messages of Allah to his believer, you’ll be able to implement his obligations and commands in your life. Moreover, you’ll manage to know the five pillars of Islam.

4. Building a strong bond with Allah

When you comprehend the true meaning of the verses in the Quran, you build a deep and endless relationship with your creator, as you get a clear comprehension of his words and messages.

5. Better performance of prayer 

When you acknowledge the meaning of verses that you recite five times a day, precisely the verses of Surah Al-Fatiha, you’ll be more focused when you recite them and eliminate distractions. This benefit brings you closeness to Allah.

6. Identifying the social rules 

By interpreting the Quran, you’ll understand the rules that govern societies. For instance, the Quran’s explanation will enable you to get a complete knowledge of the Marriage and divorce rules, in addition to the laws of inheritance.

If you want an easy way of the Quran explanation, you can register for Islamic Studies courses on Bayan al-Quran.

Types of Tafsir in Islam

The scholars divided the science of Tafsir into two main types:

1. Tafsir bil Riwaya or Athar

This type of Tafsir was the first type that featured after the foundation of the Science of interpretation. It’s based on using leading sources in the explanation of the Quran.

The Quran itself is the first source of this type of Tafsir. Also, the companions used prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) statements related to explaining the Quran.

So, the sources of Tafsir bil Riwaya are the Quran, the narrations of the prophet Muhammed (PBUH) “Sunnah”, and the interpretation of the companions.

For example, when there is an unclear verse in the Quran, there is another verse explaining it, like this verse:

{We sent it down during a blessed night}

(44:3) Al-Dukhan

When you read the verse, you’ll find out that the blessed night of the Quran’s revelation that Allah mentioned is unknown. But in the verse of Surah Al-Qadr, Allah clarified this night as the night of Al-Qadr

{We have indeed revealed this in the Lailat al-Qadr}


Another example of the interpretation is the explanation of prophet Muhammed’s (PBUH) narrations. He explained this verse of Surah Al-Baqqara:

{And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread}


Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) explained this verse as ‘Adi ibn Hatim narrated: I said “O Allah’s Apostle! What is the meaning of the white thread distinct from the black thread? Are these two threads?’ He said: ‘You are not intelligent if you watch the two threads. He then added, ‘No, it is the darkness of the night and the whiteness of the day”.

2. Tafsir bil Al-Ra’y

This type of Tafsir’s name in Arabic is “Ijtihad”. The scholars of this interpretation used the comparison between verses of the Quran to get an accurate explanation.

Also, they compared the explanations of the companions, so they transmitted the knowledge of the first type: “Tafsir Bil Riwaya”.

A. Books of Tafsir bil Riwaya 

You can read many books on this type of interpretation like: 

  • Al-Jawahir al-Hisn fi Tafsir al-Qurʼan, by Abd al-Raḥman Tha alabi (876 AH).
  • Al-Kashf wa al-Bayan, by Abu Isḥaq Aḥmad al-Tha labi (427 AH).
  • Fatḥ al-Qadir, by Muḥammad b. Ali b. Shawkani (1250 AH).
  • Durr al-Manthur fi al-Tafsir bil al-Maʼthur, by Jalal al-Din Suyuti (911 AH).
  • Baḥr al-Ulum (Samarqandī), by Abu Layth Samarqan di (373 AH).
  • Maʿalim al-Tanzil, by Abu Muḥammad b. Masʿud Baghawi (516 AH).
  • Tafsir Jami al-Bayan fī Taʼwil al-Qurʼan, by Abu Jafar Muḥammad b. Jarir Ṭabari (310 AH)

B. Books of Tafsir Bil Ray 

There are many books on this type of tafsir like

  • Madarik al-Tanzil wa Haqaʼiq al-Tʼawil, by Ibn Maḥmud Nasafi (710 AH).
  • Taʼwilat al-Quran, by Abu Mansur Muḥammad b. Muḥammad Maturidi (333 AH).
  • Lubab al-Tʼawil fi Maani al-Tanzil, by Ala al-Din al-Khazin (725 AH).
  • Tafsir Kabir (Mafatih al-Ghayb), by Fakhr al-Din Razi (606 AH).
  • Gharaʼib al-Qurʼan wa Raghaʼib al-Furqan, by Ḥasan b. Muḥammad Qummi Nayshaburi (730 AH).
  • Taḥrir wa al-Tanwir, by Ibn Ashur (1393 AH).
  • Tafsir Kabir (Mafatih al-Ghayb), by Fakhr al-Din Razi (606 AH).

Why learn Tafsir in Islam?

Identifying the interpretation of “Tafsir” of the Quran is essential to get a clear and complete comprehension of the verses.The Types of Quran are: Tafsir bil Riwaya and Tafsir bil Ra’y. The leading sources of the Quran’s explanation in Islam are The Quran, the Sunnah, and the explanation of the companions of Prophet Muhammed.

The science of tafsir is not only for a better understanding of the verses in the Quran but also for recognizing the Islamic laws that Muslims should implement and for learning Islam history. Moreover, the explanation of Quranic verses strengthens the connection with Allah and establishes social rules.

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