Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tafsir al-Jalalayn on Sura 1:7

I just received my copy of the English version of the Tafsir al-Jalalayn translated by Feras Hamza, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Dubai, for the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought. To my surprise and dismay, this 15th century commentary on al-Fatiha, which is considered to be one of the most popular tafsirs in the Islamic world, perhaps even the most popular tafsir, foreshadows the commentaries made by others in the present era such as those I have referenced on July 4. 2007 which resort to pointing fingers at our brothers and sisters in the Abrahamic faith traditions. As a Muslim in the post-modern era, I am truly disappointed that the two renowned Jalals (al-Jalalayn) - the Egyptian Shafi'i-madhab scholar Jalal al-Din Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Mahalli (d. 1459 CE) and also his Egyptian student, the famous alim and polymath, Jalal al-Din 'Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Bakr al-Suyuti (d. 1505 CE) - had such a limited conception of al-Fatiha. I am even more concerned that their commentary is considered one amongst the 'unofficial Sunni canon of tafsir." According to the general editor of this beautiful and long awaited publication, HRH Prince Dr. Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, Professor of Islamic Philosophy, Jordan University, it is the one tafsir that is available "in almost every bookshop and library in the Arab and Islamic world, in dozen of different editions, and it sits, well-loved and respected, in countless homes, schools and mosques all over the world." It is no wonder then that there is so much division in the Abrahamic family if we as Muslims continue to perpetuate these obsolete notions from the orthodox Classical tafsir. Here is how their commentary on Sura 1:7 is translated:

"(1:7) the path of those whom you have favoured, with guidance, (from alladhina together with its relative clause is substituted by ghayri l-maghdubi 'alayhim) not (the path) of those against whom there is wrath, namely, the Jews, and nor of those who are astray, namely, the Christians. The subtle meaning implied by this substitution is that the guided ones are neither the Jews nor the Christians. But God knows best what is right, and to Him is the Return and the (final) resort. May God bless our Lord Muhammad (s), his Family and Companions and grant them everlasting peace. Sufficient is God for us; an excellent Guardian is He. There is no power and no strength save in God, the High, the Tremendous " (2007, p. 1).

~ Excerpted from "Tafsir al-Jalalayn - Great Commentaries of the Holy Qur'an" translated by Feras Hamza for the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought. Dr. Feras Hamza obtained his doctorate from Oxford University (Wolfson College) and was former Research Associate in Qur'anic Studies at the Institute of Ismaili Studies.

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