Ramadan Guide Day 8: The Tafsir Question By Femi Abbas
It is understandable that most of the Tafsir books available in the world today are in Arabic language. The language of the revelation of the Qur’an is Arabic. Most of the companions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who interacted closely with him and were privileged to deeply understand the interpretation of the Qur’an were Arabs.
Arabic itself as a language is exceptionally rich literarily and semantically. For centuries after the revelation of the Qur’an, it was mostly the Arabs who assumed authority on its interpretation. Others, like the Persians (Iranians), the Indians and the Turks who tried to compete with the Arabs in the field of Tafsir, could only do so in Arabic language which they first had to learn as a second language. Thus, from the very beginning, Arabic had been the authoritative language of Tafsir.
Therefore, in those days, whoever wanted to attain scholarship in the field of Tafsir ought to have mastered Arabic language. But the anomaly in this becomes very conspicuous when one remembers that over four fifth of the world’s Muslims today are non-Arabic speakers.
This seems to have created some hurdles for humanity in understanding the practical meaning of the Qur’an and in appreciating its real essence.
There is nothing like being literate in one’s mother tongue. The Arabs have demonstrated this abundantly through Tafsir. But since Tafsir of the Qur’an is not meant for the Arabs alone, shouldn’t there be a means of making it available to majority of Muslims in the languages understandable to them?
That is one major question which the global Muslim leadership was unable to answer for centuries but which technology has come to answer succinctly especially through the means of computer. Any Muslim scholar who is not computer literate today is therefore an illiterate who may not be strictly qualified to be called a scholar.
In this computer age, the world needs the Qur’an more than ever before. And it is only Tafsir that can justify that need. Muslims and non-Muslims alike should be able to read the interpretations of the Qur’an in languages other than Arabic.
Read more on Tafsir tomorrow.