Evolution of the Sciences of the Qur’an, Part 2
By Hassen A Laidi
After the Era of the Companions
It was through the efforts of such Companions as the four Caliphs, Ibn ‘Abbaas, Ibn Mas’ood, Zayd bin Thaabit, Abu Moosa Al-Ash’ari, Ubay bin Ka’b and ‘Abdullaah bin Az-Zubayr, may Allaah be pleased with them, among others, that all of the knowledge related to the Quran was transferred and conveyed to the Taabi’een (the second Muslim generation after the companions) and from them onto the rest of the Ummah (Muslim Nation).
Among these successors, some are noteworthy: Mujaahid, ‘Ataa’ bin Rabaah, ‘Ikrimah, Qataadah, Al-Hasan Al-Basri and Maalik bin Anas, may Allaah have mercy upon them. These great scholars laid the foundation for the subject of Tafseer (exegesis) of the Quran, as well as the numerous other branches of knowledge that eventually comprised the sciences of the Quran.
Very little was written in specialised books or treatises in the first Hijri century, but many were later documented towards the end of the second century, marking the beginning of what is referred to as ‘The Era of Scriptwriting.’
Since most scholars were focused on Hadeeth (prophetic statements), this remarkable era provided the first collections of Ahadeeth (plural of Hadeeth) dealing with the subject of Tafseer, such as those collected by Shu’bah bin Al Hajjaaj (160 AH), Waaki’ bin Al-Jarraah (197 AH), ‘Abdur-Razzaaq (211 AH), and Ahmad ibn Hanbal (240 AH), may Allaah have mercy upon them, whose collection exceeded 100,000 Ahadeeth, but never reached us except what has remained as part of his Musnad (Hadeeth collection).
So, Tafseer originated as an oral tradition that was transmitted along with other topics of the Sunnah (Prophetic tradition) to find its place in the books of Sunnah. If any of these scholars had written a Tafseer book, then it was either lost or has not yet reached us. The first major, authentic and complete Tafseer compilation was written by Imaam Ibn Jareer At-Tabari (310 AH), may Allaah have mercy upon him. Many similar writings followed it.
Many other books were written that dealt with other topics and subjects related to the Quran. These writings primarily focused on a single issue or theme per book. Of the many books written throughout the centuries, only some have been checked, edited and printed. Imaam Ali bin Al-Madeeni (234 AH), may Allaah have mercy upon him, for example, wrote about the Circumstances of Revelation, Imaam Abu ‘Ubayd Al-Qaasim bin Salaam (224 AH), may Allaah have mercy upon him, wrote about Abrogation and about the Qiraa’aat (modes of Quranic recitation), while Imaam Ibn Qutaybah’s (276 AH) book dealt with the subject of Mushkil (unclear or problematic) words and meanings of the Quran.
This thematic approach continues to this day, and Al-Baqillaani (403 AH) wrote about the miraculous nature of the Quran while Al-Maawardi (450 AH) chose to discuss its Amthaal (proverbs or parables). Later, Imaam Ibn Al-Qayyim (751 AH), may Allaah have mercy upon him wrote about the oaths or vows that are found in the Quran.
The first book known to use the term and was entitled ‘`Uloom Al-Quran’ was written by Imaam Ali bin Ibrahim al-Hawfi (430 AH), may Allaah have mercy upon him. It is available but missing some volumes, and is still in manuscript form, and has not yet been printed. This book deals with and covers topics that partially comprise what we consider today as Sciences of the Quran, which is a major treatment of topics related to the Quran.
Later, Imaam As-Suyooti (911 AH), may Allaah have mercy upon him, wrote ‘Al-Itqaan Fi `Uloom Al-Quran’ that followed the same lines of ‘`Uloom Al-Quraan’, but in an abridged format, with added topics, and is printed today in two large volumes. These two works are considered the classical references on the subjects of the Sciences of the Quran. Today, there are more than a hundred books written on all aspects related to the Quran and Tafseer, some of which have been translated into English.
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