Sufi Koran Commentary: a Survey of the Genreby A. Godlas (This is a web-based version of the article "al-Tafsir al-Sufi" to be published by the Encyclopaedia Iranica)
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The Third Phase, the Sufi "Schools" of Commentary:
The Kobra@w^ya and the School of Ebn ¿Arab^
Kobra@w^ya--Kobra@, Ra@z^, Semna@n^One of the most urgent needs in the scholarship of Sufi tafs^r is the publication of the collective tafs^r of the Kobra@w^ya tradition, often known as the al-Ta÷w^la@t al-najm^ya. In the most recent examination of the problematic authorship of this tafs^r, J. Elias concluded that Najm-al-D^n Kobra@ (a Sha@fe¿^ from K¨úa@razm) may have written the first part--from the beginning of the Koran to Su@rat al-D¨a@ria@t 51:19--entirely by himself. It is also possible that his disciple Najm-al-D^n Ra@z^ Da@ya (d. 654/1256) may have written part of it. The first part--containing both exoteric and esoteric tafs^r-- has been variously titled ¿Ayn al-háaya@t, al-¿Awa@ref, and Bahár al-háaqa@÷eq (D¨ahab^, vol. 2, p. 395; Elias, 1995, pp. 204-5). Nevertheless, Bahár al-haqa@÷eq also appears to have been the title of a different tafs^r written by Najm-al-D^n Ra@z^ (Ate¶, pp. 142-44; William Shpall, 1981-84; Süleyma@niye: ms. Hasan Hüsnü #37 mokarrar). Elias has demonstrated, however, that ¿Ala@÷-al-Dawla Semna@n^ (d. 736/1336) wrote a distinct commentary, one of the names of which is Tafs^r Najm al-Qor÷a@n and which is entirely esoteric. It begins with Su@rat al-T®u@r (Su@rat 52) and covers the remainder of the Koran, although it is prefaced by a long introduction and commentary on the Fa@teháa and in various mss. begins when the tafs^r of Kobra@/Ra@z^ leaves off (Elias, 1995, pp. 203-212; D¨ahab^, p. 395). The introduction was edited by Nwyia (1973-77, pp. 141-57) and studied by Corbin (1978, pp. 121-44). Elias edited various excerpts of Semna@n^'s tafs^r, basing his edition on two related mss., one of which was collated with Semna@n^'s own copy (1991, pp. 281-321). Elias also discussed Semna@n^'s understanding of the Koran--which he explicitly expresses in his tafs^r--noting that according to Semna@n^ one can become transformed into a mirror for Divine attributes by contemplating the Qor÷a@n (Elias, 1995, pp. 107-110).
Kobra@w^ya--Naysa@bu@r^Another tafs^r related to the Kobraw^ school is that of the Sha@fe¿^ scholar Nezáa@m-al-D^n H®asan b. Moháammad b. H®osayn Qomm^ Naysa@bu@r^ (d. 728/1327, but this is problematic). Although his tafs^r, Tafs^r GÚara@÷eb al-Qor÷a@n wa-rag@a@÷eb al-forqa@n (which has been published), is largely a traditional exoteric tafs^r, it includes significant Sufi commentary, most of which--as the author himself stated-- came from Najm-al-D^n Ra@z^ Da@ya (Naysa@bu@r^, vol. 30, p. 223; Aya@z^ p. 528; D¨ahab^, vol. 1, p. 321). Zarqa@n^ noted that after Naysa@bu@r^ discussed the exoteric meaning (záa@her ma¿na@) of an a@ya, he would write, "The people of 'allusion' (esha@ra) say..." Or, he simply wrote "al-ta÷w^l" and thereafter explicated the esoteric meaning (al-ma¿na@ al-esha@r^) of the a@ya (Zarqa@n^, vol. 2, pp. 82). M. Ayoub has translated excerpts of the Sufi component of Naysa@bu@r^'s tafs^r (1981, vol. 1, and 1992, vol. 2).
Ebn ¿Ara@b^ and His school-- Ebn Barraja@n and Ebn ¿Ara@b^Ebn ¿Ara@b^÷s school of Koran commentary, influenced mainly by Moháyi'l-D^n Ebn ¿Arab^'s writings and to a lesser degree by his predecessor Ebn Barraja@n, was continued by Qa@sha@n^ and S®afad^ (Böwering, 1991, p. 43), although the connection of Safad^ to this school is problematic. These tafs^rs consist of independently composed commentaries that nevertheless are united by their common usage of Ebn ¿Arab^'s terms and concepts. According to Ate¶--who described various mss. of the tafs^r of ¿Abd-al-Sala@m b. ¿Abd-al-Raháma@n Abu'l-H®akam Eshb^l^, known as Ebn Barraja@n (d. 536/1141) (d. 536/1141)--the tafs^r of Ebn Barraja@n greatly influenced Ebn ¿Arab^ (Ate¶, 1974, pp. 130-31). In addition, Ate¶ argued that a partial commentary--from Su@rat Yu@nus (10) to Su@rat al-T®u@r (52) --by Ebn ¿Arab^ is extant (ms. ?ehid ¿Al^ Pa¶a #62) and that it was a model for the commentary of Qa@sha@n^ (Ate¶, 1974, pp. 178-79, 187-88). If Ate¶ has indeed correctly identified Ebn ¿Arab^ as the author of this manuscript, its publication is another of the major needs of the field.
Ebn ¿Ara@b^ and His school-- S®afad^Böwering noted that the tafs^r of S®afad^ (d. 696/1296)--whose full name was Jama@l-al-D^n Yu@sof b. Hela@l b. (?) Abi 'l-Baraka@t H®alab^ H®anaf^ Abu'l-Fazµa@÷el S®afad^--was influenced by Ebn ¿Arab^'s school of thought (1991, p. 43). Ate¶ demonstrated that this unpublished tafs^r, the title of which is Kashf al-asra@r f^ hatk al-asta@r, had been mistakenly attributed to Ebn ¿Arab^ himself (Ate¶, 1974, p. 197). Although Ate¶, in the table of contents of Ë¶a@r^ tefs^r okulu, lists S®afad^'s tafs^r as being among those that were influenced by the "unity of being" (wahádat al-woju@d) (which is an important doctrine of Ebn ¿Arab^'s "school"), later, however, in his discussion of S®afad^'s exegetical method, Ate¶ concluded by stating that S®afad^'s tafs^r did not exhibit the characteristics of the "unity of being" (Ate¶, 1974, p. 202).
Ebn ¿Ara@b^ and His school-- Qa@sha@n^In contrast to S®afad^, the tafs^r of ¿Abd-al-Razza@q Qa@sha@n^ (d. 730/1330) clearly exhibits the influence of the "unity of being." This is a major reason why even to this day Qa@sha@n^'s tafs^r is known as the "Tafs^r of Ebn ¿Arab^" (ed. GÚa@leb, 1401/1981). Studied by Pierre Lory (1980), excerpts of this tafs^r have been translated into English by Ayoub (1981, vol. 1, and 1992 vol. 2). The most recent contribution to the tafs^rs of the "school" of Ebn ¿Arab^ is a contemporary collection of Ebn ¿Arab^'s Sufi exegeses found throughout his works and compiled by M. GÚora@b (Aya@z^, pp. 464-69).
Copyright A. Godlas 1998 All rights reserved.
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