Tafsir Ibn 'Abbas

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Tafsir Ibn 'Abbas
AuthorIbn al-Abbas
Original titleتفسير إبن عباس
SubjectExegesis of Qur'an

Tafsir Ibn 'Abbas is a compilation of exegetical quotations attributed to 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas which has been compiled by his pupils. Shi'a transmitters of hadith commonly referred to these quotations. Al-Husayn b. al-Hakam al-Hibari and Furat b. Ibrahim al-Kufi narrated many exegetical hadiths from Ibn 'Abbas. Also, 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Jaludi compiled a collection of Ibn 'Abbas' exegetical quotations.

This collection includes the occasion of revelation of verses in narrative style. Also, al-Hasakani has mentioned many exegetical hadiths about the virtues of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and the occasion of revelation of verses transmitted by Ibn 'Abbas.


Although there are many exegetical hadiths mentioned in commentaries of the Qur'an transmitted by Ibn 'Abbas, it is doubtful that he had any works of his own. It can be understood from what some of his pupils narrated that they compiled his quotations after his demise. Another reason for the absence of written exegetical hadiths transmitted by Ibn 'Abbas is the differences between his exegetical narrations in different commentaries even under one verse.

Ways of Transmissions

The chain of transmission of hadiths by Muhammad b. Muslim al-Zuhri from 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Utba from Mu'awiya b. Salih from Ali b. Abi Talha has been considered the most authentic way of transmission of his hadiths. The collection of these hadiths has been a common reference among the Egyptian scholars of hadith. Some scholars rejected the possibility of hearing hadiths by Ali b. Abi Talha from Ibn 'Abbas and believe that Ali b. Abi Talha must have received hadiths from Mujahid b. Jabr and Sa'id b. Jubayr. Rashid 'Abd al-Mun'im collected exegetical hadiths quoted by Ali b. Abi Talha from Ibn 'Abbas as well as different ways of transmission of hadiths by Ali b. Abi Talha from different commentaries on the Qur'an and published them as Sahifa Ali b. Abi Talha 'an Ibn 'Abbas fi tafsir al-Qur'an al-Karim.

  • Nawfal referred to Ibn 'Abbas's methodology of Qur'anic exegesis as the Meccan School of Exegesis, pointing to his students such as Mujahid b. Jabr and 'Ata' b. Abi Ribah. Some people take Mujahid b. Jabr's exegesis to be a transmission of Ibn 'Abbas's exegesis. In the published version of Mujahid's exegesis, there are few exegetical reports from Ibn 'Abbas.
  • Al-Tha'labi has pointed to eight chains of transmissions of Ibn 'Abbas's exegesis. He has transmitted Ibn 'Abbas's views from 'Ali b. Abi Talha's exegesis, 'Atiyya b. Sa'd al-'Awfi's exegsis, Abu Muhammad Bakr b. Sahl al-Dimyati's exegesis, 'Ikrama b. 'Abd Allah's exegesis, al-Kalbi's exegesis as transmitted by Muhammad b. Fudayl, Yusuf b. Balal, Habban b. 'Ali al-'Anzi, and Salih b. Muhammad al-Tirmidhi. Tha'labi claims that Salih b. Muhammad added four thousand hadiths to Ibn 'Abbas's exegesis.
  • 'Abd al-Razzaq al-San'ani has transmitted most of his hadiths from Ibn 'Abbas through Sufyan b. 'Uyayna from 'Amr b. Dinar from 'Ata' b. Abi Ribah from Ibn 'Abbas, while al-Tabari has never transmitted a hadith through this chain of transmission.
  • Al-Bukhari and Muslim have transmitted Ibn 'Abbas's exegetical hadiths from 'Ata' b. Sa'ib from Sa'id b. Jubayr from Ibn 'Abbas.
  • The least reliable chain of transmission of Ibn 'Abbas's hadiths is through Muhammad b. Marwan al-Suddi from Muhammad b. Sa'ib al-Kalbi from Abu Salih or Abu Malik. However, Ibn 'Adi and the author of al-Mabani fi nazm al-ma'ani take hadiths from Abu Salih in al-Kalbi's exegesis to be accurate.
  • Ibn 'Abbas's exegetical comments, as collected by Bakr b. Sahl al-Dimyati, were widely cited and considered by scholars. In his exegesis, Ahmad b. Faris b. Zakariyya cites Ibn 'Abbas's exegetical comments through al-Dimyati's exegesis.
  • Hud b. Muhakkam al-Huwwari has transmitted many hadiths from Ibn 'Abbas through al-Kalbi's exegesis. According to the editor of the exegesis, Hud b. Muhakkam's main source for al-Kalbi's hadiths was Yahya b. Salam al-Basri's hadith-based exegesis.

As a Reference in Shi'a Hadiths

Shi'a transmitters of hadith commonly Referred to exegetical quotations of Ibn 'Abbas.

  • Al-Husayn b. al-Hakam al-Hibari al-Zaydi quoted many hadiths from Ibn Abbas about the occasion of revelation of verses.
  • Furat b. Ibrahim al-Kufi, a pupil of al-Hibari, quoted many hadiths from Ibn Abbas about the occasion of revelation of verses.
  • 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Jaludi compiled a collection of exegetical quotations of Ibn 'Abbas.
  • 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abd Allah al-Hasakani mentioned many exegetical hadiths and the occasion of revelation of verses about the virtues of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) transmitted by Ibn 'Abbas.

Characteristics of the Hadiths

  • Mentioning the occasion of revelation of verses: hadiths about the occasion of revelation of verses about the virtues of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) have been transmitted by Ibn 'Abbas.
  • They are in narrative style.

Special Exegetical Opinions

  • Approving the existence of non-Arabic words in the Qur'an
  • Considering Muqatta'a (disjoined) letters Interpretable
  • Interpreting Muqatta'a letters as referring to the Great name of God
  • Impossibility of seeing God
  • Mentioning some Isra'iliyyat
  • Approving the existence of the world of Dhar
  • Believing in determinism; in the interpretation of Qur'an 7:172, some hadiths are transmitted by Ibn Abbas about his approval of the existence of the world of Dhar and some of them contain phrases suggesting determinism.

Tanwir al-Miqbas

There is a famous commentary on the Qur'an called Tanwir al-Miqbas min tafsir Ibn 'Abbas. This commentary has been attributed to Muhammad b. Sa'ib al-Kalbi and Abu Muhammad 'Abd Allah b. Wahab al-Dinwari and Muhammad b. Ya'qub al-Firuzabadi. Literary analysis of this text shows that it has been written in late third/tenth century.

Apparently, it has been published in Cairo in 1290/1873 for the first time. There are different prints of the book none of which is critical.


  • The full text of Tanwir al-miqbas is available, and in the exegesis of Qur'anic verses, their literal meanings are stated and sometimes a hadith is cited.
  • In its interpretation of disjoined letters (al-huruf al-muqatta'a), each letter is taken to be a symbol of a name of God or to signify an event.
  • With regard to the problem of seeing God, under the Qur'an 7:143, the author says that it can only happen in the afterlife.
  • Occasions of revelations of certain Qur'anic verses regarding Ahl al-Bayt (a) are claimed to be about other people.

Other Qur'anic Works

  • Al-Lughat fi l-Qur'an: in some available manuscripts its title is "Gharib al-Qur'an". In this book, Ibn 'Abbas has collected a set of Qur'anic words in the order of the Suras. The essay is available with edits and the transmission of 'Ata' b. Abi Ribah as well as 'Ali b. Abi Talha.

The book is also called Lughat al-Qur'an and Lughat al-qaba'il al-warida fi l-Qur'an al-karim. Its published versions are as follows:

  1. Salah al-Din Munajjid, based on 'Abd Allah b. Husayn b. Hasnun al-Samiri's narration
  2. Abd al-Majid Sayyid Talab, under the name Lughat al-qaba'il al-warida fi l-Qur'an al-Karim, based on Abu Ubayd Qasim b. Sallam's narration.
  3. Ahmad Bulut, under the name Gharib al-Qur'an.
  • Masa'il Nafi' b. al-Azraq: a collection of 190 Qur'anic words and evidence from poems of the Jahiliyya period. The essay has been transmitted through different chains and with some differences in collections of hadiths and literature, and has been published a number of times:
  1. Fu'ad Abd al-Baqi
  2. Aisha Abd al-Rahman bt. al-Shati
  3. Ibrahim al-Samirayi

An old manuscript of the essay dating back to the fourth/tenth century is available in al-Zahiriyya Library in Damascus. There is an exegesis of Sura al-Waqi'a (Qur'an 56) attributed to Ibn 'Abbas in the Diwan Library in India which is not similar to Tanwir al-miqbas.