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The Contribution Of The ‘Ulama Of Deoband To Tafseer


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In the field of tafsīr (commentary) of Qur’ān the magnificent works of our ‘ulamā stand out like a rose in a concrete floor. All the various tafāsīr written by our ‘ulamā, despite each having its own unique style, are unified in their objective, to simplify the understanding of the Noble Qur’ān for the ummah. A few of the more famous tafāsīr are:

Tafsīr al-'Uthmānī: After realising that the rut in the Ummah has set in due to abandoning the Qur’ān, Shaykh al-Hind Mawlānā Mahmūd al-Hasan Deobandī (Allah have mercy on him) decided to write a simple translation of the Qur’ān. Shaykh al-Hind commenced the tafsīr while he was imprisoned in Malta by the British. After completing the translation, Shaykh al-Hind began the footnotes but only managed to finish until the end of Sūrah ‘Āl-Imrān before death overtook him. Mawlānā Shabbir Ahmad ’Uthmānī (Allah have mercy on him), thereafter took up the great task of finishing the footnotes, bringing the book to completion in 1350 H.

Bayān al-Qur’ān: Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī (Allah have mercy on him) completed Bayān al-Qur’ān in 1353H. This three volume masterpiece is unique in the following aspects:

1. Lengthy narratives and rulings were excluded, the object being a basic understanding of the Qur’ān.

2. In those verses in which many opinions occur regarding the meaning, only the preferred one is mentioned.

3. This tafsīr benefits both, the general masses and the ‘ulamā.

For the ‘ulamā, a special foot-note has been added in Arabic consisting of balāghah (eloquence), nahw (grammar), fiqhī masā’il, the different qirā’āh as well as masā’il of Tasawwuf extracted from the Qur’ān.

Ma’ārif al-Qur’ān: Mawlānā Idrīs Kandhlawī (Allah have mercy on him) wrote this tafsīr consisting of eight volumes in 1382H (1962C). He had based his translation on that of Shāh ’Abd al-Qādir Dahlawi (Allah have mercy on him). He was known to have a special talent of pointing out the connection between the verses, which is an important aspect of tafsīr. Masā’il of aqā’id (beliefs) and Fiqh have been explained in ample detail. Before he passed away, he was only able to finish till Sūrah Sāffāh. Later his son completed the tafsīr.

Ma’ārif al-Qur’ān: In 1373H (1954C), Muftī Muhammad Shafī’ (Allah have mercy on him) commenced lessons of tafsīr on Radio Pakistan. The lesson was delivered every Friday on a selected portion of the Qur’ān and was meant to cater for the needs of every average Muslim. However, upon receiving numerous requests from enthusiastic listeners to publish the tafsīr in a book form, he began its compilation and completed it in 1963C. He mentions the specialities of the tafsīr as the following:

1. Most tafsīrs have such information which is only beneficial for ‘ulamā, commenting on nahw, balāghah, and different qirā’ah etc. which are of no use to the masses. As a result of these intricate details, the public began to think that understanding the Qur’ān is very difficult. During the writing of this tafsīr, Muftī Shafī’ kept in mind that it should be kept simple since the average Muslim is not able to understand technical terms and finer points.

2. Special importance was given to discussing those topics which generate the love and greatness of Allāh and the Nabī of Allāh (peace and blessings be upon him) in ones heart. Likewise, those points have been adequately discussed which encourage a person to correct his actions, and to practice on the Qur’ān.

3. Before the detailed tafsīr, an overview of the verses are mentioned which suffices for a busy person to understand the Qur’ān.

The above briefly proves that the ‘ulamā of Deoband did everything in their power to fulfil the need of the time i.e. to create in the masses an understanding of the Qur’ān. May Allāh accept their concerted efforts and ignite in our hearts that same flame of desire to serve dīn.

Kajee, Moosa. ‘Ulama of Deoband. Azaadville: Madrasah Arabia Islamia. 1432H, 2011C. p16-8]


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