2. Explanation of the Verses with their Parallels
Now we turn to the second important principle of exegesis namely tafsir al-ayat bi al-ayat. To begin with I quote Imam Suyuti:
The scholars have said that, while embarking on the task of interpreting the divine text, a commentator has to refer to the Holy Quran itself first of all because whatever part of the Book is ambiguous in one place has been made clear in another place. What is put with brevity here has been elaborated upon there. Ibn al-Jawzi has devoted a treatise to the discussion of the Quranic themes briefly alluded to in one place and explained at another. I too have brought forth some examples of the kind under discussion of mujmal (ambiguous). If it is not possible then the exegete needs to turn to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws) because the Sunnah explains and explicates the Holy Quran. Imam Shafi has said that all the Prophetic commands were based on the Holy Quran. The following verse of the Holy Quran attests this (4:105):
We have sent down to you the Book with decisive truth that you may judge between men by what God has shown you
Many other verses of the Holy Quran support this fact. The Prophet (sws), too, has said:
I have been granted the Holy Quran and with it something similar to it
i.e. the Sunnah
If however it is not possible for him (to interpret the verse in the light of the Sunnah) then he must consult the sayings of the Companions. They best knew what was revealed before their eyes, had full knowledge of the circumstances in which it was revealed and were characterized by a perfect understanding, sound knowledge, and pious deeds.
I fully appreciate that the first thing to be resorted to in the task of interpreting the Holy Quran is the Quran itself. The knowledge that we have received from the Holy Prophet (sws) and his Companions follows it. God knows that, to me, the best interpretation of the Quran is that validly ascribed to the Prophet (sws) and his Companions.
Some of the scholars have conducted exegesis on the basis of traditions. The work of Ibn al-Jarir al-Tabri, often hailed as the unparallelled Tafsir work, represents this model. However, most of the narratives he employed in his commentary are not sound and reliable. Very few traditions are marfu. Tabri has indeed collected the opinions of the earlier commentators on the meaning of the Quranic verses, completely ignoring their mutual contradiction.
Though I believe that most of the sahih narratives do not contradict the Holy Quran, yet I have refrained from basing my commentary on the Hadith narratives. I have used them only in corroborating my opinions on the Quranic verses concluded in the light of their parallels. To me, the status of the categorical resource of exegesis is exclusive for the Quran. The Hadith narratives work only as explanatory and non-categorical resource which must accord with the foundational one and may never override it. This is because I intend to keep the door of difference and confrontation closed on the rejectors of the Book who have thrown the Word of God on their backs and on the heretics who have attributed to the Muslims things which are not based on the Word of God. I have consciously adopted this approach in order that the Book serves as a common guide for all and as the basic criterion and deciding force on the confronting views of sectarian groups.
I do not indeed intend to amass all that relates to the Holy Quran for I believe that the Book of God is a mine of treasure which does not exhaust no matter how great a number of seekers approach it. Moreover, there is already sufficient number of exegetical works. Whoever searches through them with the eyes of a researcher is rewarded with what is destined for him of knowledge. I have, on the contrary, intended to bring to surface that which works as foundation, the source, the balance, and the wisdom. Therefore, I have abandoned anything other than the Holy Quran without declaring it unacceptable, following Imam Bukhari, who recorded in his book only those ahadith which were sound to him and were acceptable by all. He did not deem it fit to reject the other narratives which he could not include in his work. In the present work, I could not even discuss a tiny part of the wisdom and the realities buried in the Quranic text itself what to say of the discussions external to it. If the Lord wills I will write a separate book in which, with His help, I will deal with all such pearls of the Quranic wisdom.
Just as I have employed the hadith narratives in corroboration of the conclusions reached in the light of the Quranic text I also use the Scriptures revealed to the earlier nations in the same capacity. The basic objective behind this exercise is to reveal and highlight the issues where the Quranic and Biblical verses are in agreement. This establishes the veracity of Islam over the Jews and the Christians with the help of their Scriptures. They too have been splitting hair on issues, they suppose, they have found in the Quran in their favour.
The above discussion is enough for a preface. There are, however, other matters of fundamental import which call for detailed discussion for which I have dedicated the introductions to the present book. We can refer to them in the course of discussion of the exegesis to avoid disruption by frequent repetitions.
The work is divided in a hundred and fourteen chapters, a separate chapter for each Surah. I thank God for whatever I have written correct. He is surely the source of all blessings. Thus, whatever right conclusions I have reached are definitely owed to God. If , however, I have been wrong, God knows, I have only pursued a good desire in my mind like Jacob.