Tafsir al-Tustari English
By Sahl al-Tustari
Translated by Annabel Keeler and Ali Keeler
Paperback 408 Pages
ISBN : 9781891785191
Publisher : Fons Vitae commissioned by Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought
About The Book
Tafsir Al-Tustari, presented here in complete English translation for the first time ever, is the fourth work in The Great Commentaries on the Holy Qur’an series. The series aims to make widely available leading exegetical works in translation for study and research in unabridged form, which are faithful to the letter and meaning of the Arabic.
The Tafsir Al-Tustari is the earliest surviving Sufi commentary on the Qur'an. This commentary is one of the few authenticated works in Tustari's name, and is a key source for understanding the mystical thought and teachings of this important and influential Sufi. In addition to insights into the spiritual significance of almost 1000 verses of the Qur'an, this commentary includes numerous references to traditions of the Prophet, explanations of the ethical and mystical dimensions of the religious life, stories of the prophets, and anecdotes about earlier mystics. The translation has the benefit of reference to three good manuscripts in addition to the printed edition of the text, and is generously augmented with explanatory footnotes throughout. The book will not only provide its readers with an invaluable introduction to the Sufi tradition of Qur'anic interpretation, but also acquaint them with spiritual doctrines that were to become fundamental to the later development of Sufism.
From the Preface:
"The Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'azim (Commentary on the Great Qur'an) of Sahl b. 'Abd Allah al-Tustari (d. 238 A.H./896 C.E.) is remarkable in having been compiled much earlier than this, by Tustari's immediate disciples and within one generation of his death, and in having been preserved as a commentary on the Qur'an through an authenticated chain of transmission, until it was first written down by a scribe in the mid-sixth A.H./twelfth C.E. century. Thus it may claim to be the earliest extant Sufi Qur'an commentary ascribed to a single author.
What is more, Tustari's disciples integrated within this exegetical corpus a large number of apposite sayings of their master as well as accounts of events in his life. This makes it possible to situate the interpretations within the compass of Tustari's thought, and to gain a greater understanding of the profound connection between his mystical doctrines and his exegesis of the Qur'an."
The Introduction is very informative and divided into six sections as follows:
I. Sahl al-Tustari's Spiritual Formation and his Teachers
II. Tustari as Spiritual Master, and his Disciples
III. Tustari's Works
IV. The Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'azim
V. Tustari's Approach to Qur'anic Interpretation
VI. Mystical Teachings
(which is divided into six sub-sections):
A. The Qur'an and the Prophet
B. The Muhammadan Light
D. The Spiritual Destiny of Human Beings: Cosmology and Eschatology
E. Spiritual Psychology
F. The Spiritual Path
About Sahl al-Tustari
Abu Muhammed Sahl ibn 'Abd Allah known as Sahl al-Tustari was born in the fortress town of Tustar (Arabic) or Shushtar (Persian) in Khuzestan Province in what is now southwestern Iran in the year 818 CE (203 AH). He was a famous early classical Sufi mystic and commentator of Qur'an (Mufassir). He founded the Salimiyah Muslim theological school, which was named after his disciple Muhammad ibn Salim.
From an early age he led an ascetic life with frequent fasting and study of the Qur'an and Hadith, the oral traditions, of the Prophet Muhammad. He practised repentance (tawbah) and, above all, constant remembrance of God (dhikr). This eventually culminated in a direct and intimate rapport with God with whom he considered himself a special friend and one of the spiritual elect. Tustari was under the direction of the Sufi saint Dhul-Nun al-Misri for a time, and Tustari in his turn was one of the Sufi mystic and later martyr Mansur Al-Hallaj's early teachers. In these early days when the Sufis were becoming established mostly in Baghdad (the capital of Abbasid Khilafah), the most notable Sufis of the time elsewhere were: Tustari in southwestern Iran, Al-Tirmidhi in Central Asia and the Malamatiyya or "People of Blame"
Tustari is most famous for his well-known Tafsir, a commentary on and interpretation of the Qur'an. He died in the year 896 CE (283 AH).
About the Translators
Annabel Keeler obtained her doctorate from Cambridge University in 2001. Her dissertation, revised and expanded, was published in 2006 under the title "Sufi Hermeneutics: The Qur'an Commentary of Rashid al-Din Maybudi." She recently completed a research fellowship at Wolfson College, Cambridge, where she now continues her work in the field of Islamic mysticism with a particular interest in the Sufi interpretation of the Qur'an. Apart from her book on Maybudi's Qur'an commentary, she has published a number of articles in the field of Islamic mysticism and Sufi hermeneutics. She is currently preparing a monograph of the 9th Century mystic Abu Yazid al-Bistami.
Ali Keeler has spent almost ten years in the Middle East, firstly in the Yemen and then in Damascus, where as well as teaching English, he has studied Arabic, the art of Qur'anic recitation, aspects of the traditional Islamic sciences, and has read through several classic works of Islamic mysticism with living Sufi masters. He has translated a number of books into English, including "Selected Prayers of the Prophet Muhammad and Great Saints" and "A Tourist Guide to Craq de Chevalier."
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