Ijtihād, synthesis, modernity and renewal: al-Bayḍāwī’s "Anwār al-Tanzīl wa-Asrār al-Taʾwīl" in hermeneutical tradition

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Gibril Fouad Haddad


Among the major exegeses of the Qur’ān none has received more attention on the part of Muslim teachers and scholars as the tafsīr by the elusive Turco-Perso- Arab Shāfiʿī-Ashʿarī- Sufi savant of Shīrāz and Azerbaijan, Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Bayḍāwī (d. 685?/1286?), Anwār al-Tanzīl wa-Asrār al-Ta’wīl (The Lights of Revelation and the Secrets of Interpretation). It contains such a consummate analysis of the Quranic use of Arabic grammar and style that it is viewed as the foremost demonstration of the linguistic, rhetorical and semantic inimitability (iʿjāz) of the Qurʾān in Sunni literature. Its success crowns al-Bayḍāwī’s intent to pour out into his last work the quintessence of his skills and scholarly experience into the service of the Qur’ān. This paper shows some of the ways in which al-Bayḍāwī set the standard in the genre—just as he had done in other fields with his opera magna in legal theory, credal doctrine and sacred law—and was able, for seven centuries since his Tafsīr first came out, to revive and boost the relationship of the community of Islam with its most fundamental text.


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Research Article (English)