The question arises:
Why is there a need for tafsîr After all, does not Allâh say in the Qûr’an: Verily this Qûr’an leads to the path that is most right [17:9] and thus everybody can find the Straight Path through this Book? And is not the Qûr’an a complete source of guidance in and of itself as it says,
|And We have sent down the Book to you as an explanation for everything, a guidance, a mercy and glad tidings for Muslims [16:89]|
Indeed, it is true that anyone who approaches the Qûr’an with a pure heart, seeking the guidance of Allâh, will find it. As Allâh says,
|This (Qûr’an) is a declaration for mankind, a guidance and an admonition for those who ward off evil [3:138]|
But this in no way implies that a person who is unaware of the numerous hadîth of the Prophet (saws) in explaining the Qûr’an, and of the reasons behind the revelation of specific verses, and of the intricacies of Arabic grammar and principles of rhetoric, and of the various qirât,and of the knowledge of the abrogated rulings, and of all of the other topics of ‘Ulûm al Qûr’an will benefit from the Qûr’an to the same degree that a person who does know these facts will. For example, an Arabic linguist or grammarian might be able to see a certain wisdom behind the phrasing of a verse that the average person may not. A person specialised in the topics of ‘Ulûm al Qûr’an will be better able to grasp the intended meanings of a verse, and derive rulings from it, in contrast to the average layman, who is not qualified to derive rulings from the Qûr’an.
As-Suyûti also discusses the necessity of tafsîr in his al-Itqân. He begins by stating that it is a known fact that Allaah communicates with man in a way that the will be able to understand. This is the reason that every messenger has been sent in the language of his people. However, there are three basic reasons why tafsîr is necessary despite these facts.
First of all, Allaah uses the most clear, eloquent and concise language, and in doing so the meaning is clear to those who are well-grounded in the Arabic language, but not so clear to those who are not.
Secondly, the Qûr’an itself does not always mention the events or references for which each particular verse was revealed, and these must be known in order for the verse to be fully and totally understood.
Lastly, some words may have multiple meanings, and it is the job of the person that does tafsîr to explain what is meant by the word. It can be said that the purpose of tafsîr is to elaborate the principles which the Qûr’an came to clarify:
|(This is) a Book which We have sent down to you, full of blessings, so that they may ponder over its verses, and that men of understanding may remember [38:29]|
It is the science of tafsîr which is the fruit of ‘pondering over its verses.'
2 cf. Ik, pps. 64-66.
3 Both quotes taken from Zarabozo, ibid., p. 12.
4 As-Suyûti, v. 2, p. 224; cf. Zarabozo, p. 12.