Preamble to Qur’anic exegesis
The present chapter provides an informative account of the evolution of Qur’anic exegesis since the inseption of Islam in the first/seventh century and up to the twentieth century, as well as the diverse approaches that have developed over the past centuries. This detailed investigation takes into consideration the views of both Muslim and non-Muslim Qur’an scholars with regards to early tafsir tradition, the controversy over the authenticity and historicity of tafsir sources and works, the reliability as opposed to the sceptical views about the genuine and spurious chain of authorities, the validity of prophetic tradition, the relationship between the Qur’an and the hadith, the impact of fabricated prophetic traditions on exegesis and the reliability of ascription of exegetical views to iconic companion exegetes. This chapter also provides a classification of the exegetical views of the companions and successors as well as a ramification of the schools of exegesis that have evolved since the first/seventh century. The documentation and transmission of Qur’anic exegesis is also provided together with the classification of exegetical sources. Through our investigation of historiography and exegesis, the present discussion also accounts for the impact of the Judeo-Christian milieu and the influence of Jewish anecdotes, as a recurrent feature, on some schools of Qur’anic exegesis and, in particular, on some companion and successor exegetes of the formative phase. This chapter also provides an outline of the major genres in exegesis throughout the three distinct phases: formative, recording and modern. These include paraphrastic, narrative, legal, linguistic, thematic, synoptic and scientific genres. A classification of lexicographical tafsir works has been made which accounts for the distinct approaches in Qur’anic exegesis such as intralingual translation of the Qur’an, gharib, wujuh, ashbah and mutashabihat works.