What is Tafseer?
Tafseer is the interpretation of the Quran through the direct translation of the Arabic language and/or Hadiths. The Hadiths are stories, traditions and sayings of the Prophet Muhamad(S) passed down orally for generations that were eventually complied into several books.
The two types of Tafseer:
1) The Linguistic Tafseer, Tafseer al-Lugha
This Linguistic Tafseer, Tafseer al-Lugha, was the original way people translated the Quran. It started around the year 200 Hijri, with the most famous Scholar from this school being Abu Obaida Muamar bin al-Muthanna. Abu Obaida was an encyclopedia of knowledge who lived for about 100 years teaching the meaning of the Quran linguistically. One of his most famous books, Majaaz al-Quran, was written in the year 188 Hijri. His school recognizes the importance of the Arabic language in the Quran, and refers to the meanings of the words based on the Arabic language that was used at the time of the Prophet.
2) The tafseer by oral tradition, Tafseer al-Athari
A Mufassir is a person that tries to explain the Quran using Tafseer al-Athari. The Mufassir relies on the oral information passed down from person to person, known as Hadiths. These Hadiths were used by well-known Scholars from the past to translate the Quran. The most famous one being Al-Tabari. Ibn Jarir al-Tabari was a great Scholar in the beginning of the year 300 Hijri (300 years after the Prophet’s (S) migration to Madinah). He was also a Historian who wrote the famous book Taarikh al-Tabari. After his death in the year 310 Hijri, most of the Scholars who followed the traditional way of Islam began to use his tafseer as a reference. Tafseer al-Athari is the most commonly used form of research in the Islamic world today.
Most translations of the Quran are based on personal interpretations of the verse, rather than a word for word translation. This makes it difficult for non-Arabic readers to grasp the full understanding of the Quranic verses.
I strongly believe the linguistic tafseer, Tafseer al-Lugha, allows for the most authentic translation of the Quran. The linguistic school translates and delves into the words of the Quran by utilizing the Arabic dictionary from the time of the Prophet (S) and the revelation. The meaning of the vocabulary is determined by the root of each word. The linguistic school also establishes that there is only one meaning for each word in the Quran and no two words can share the same meaning. This allows for a clear and undeniable translation of the Quranic text.
The Quran states the importance of language in chapter al-Nahl verse 103. I believe the Quran
is a source of knowledge and guidance for all time. The importance of these words can be uncovered through the linguistic method of understanding the Quran.