We are in the month of Ramdan and reading the holy Qur’an has great benefits. Reading the Qur’an with its translation has more benefits and reading it with a commentary is the most preferred. There are many translations and commentaries of the Qur’an, but here I would like to talk about Ma’ariful Qur’an, a commentary that Allah swt gave me the opportunity to read.
“Ma’ariful Qur’an” is a book that is considered one of the most important sources of reference for the Ulema in almost every mosque or madrasa of repute in the Indian sub-continent. This eight-volume exegesis (detailed commentary) of the Holy Qur’an is authored by Moulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi, an eminent scholar. A prolific writer who has written around one hundred books explaining the Qur’an and interpreting Islamic law, the Mufti is best known for his monumental work, the “Ma’ariful Qur’an” which is widely read to this day.
Moulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi is an expert on shariah, hadith, tafseer (Qur’anic exegesis), and tasawwuf (Sufism). Born on the 25th of January, 1897 in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh, he grew up in Darul Uloom, Deoband as a promising student learning hifz (memorization of the Qur’an), tajweed, sarf (morphology), hadith: apart from a study of Urdu, Persian, Mathematics and other subjects. He benefitted from the exemplary guidance of a number of distinguished teachers. He also received spiritual guidance from Shaikh Al Hind Moulana Mahmud-al-Hassan and Hakim al-Ummah Moulana Ashraf Ali al-Thanvi. From the year 1918-19, he became a teacher in Darul Uloom, Deoband. His dedication and competence led to his appointment as Chief Mufti in the year 1931.
Moulana’s Later Years
After independence Mufti Muhammad Shafi moved over to Pakistan and in the year 1951, he established the Darul Uloom at Karachi, on the pattern of Darul Uloom, Deoband. Some of his scholarly fatwas have been published in an eight-volume book titled “Imdad al –Muftin”.
Background to the Ma’ariful Qur’an
Ma’ariful Qur’an is the name of a detailed commentary of the Holy Qur’an meaning ‘the wisdom of the Qur’an’. It all started when Mufti Muhammed Shafi was invited by Radio Pakistan in the year 1954 to give weekly lectures explaining selected verses of the Qur’an. He accepted the invitation on the condition that he would not accept any remuneration for this service and that his lectures should be broadcasted without interference by the editing authorities. The programme which was called ‘Ma’ariful Qur’an’ was broadcast every Friday and became extremely popular, not only in Pakistan but also in other countries as well. The lectures continued for ten years (up to 1964) till they were stopped by the authorities for reasons not disclosed. Consequently, there was a flood of requests from all over the world to bring out these lectures in book form and complete the remaining parts as regular commentary.
Mufti Muhammed Shafi started writing the commentary in the year 1964 but had to discontinue this task for the next five years owing to his multifarious responsibilities. As fate would have it, he fell sick and bedridden. It was during this sickness that he devoted his entire time to writing the commentary, despite many hurdles. An eight-volume “Ma’ariful Qur’an” in Urdu language comprising a whopping seven thousand pages was astonishingly completed by him in just five years.
Ma’ariful Qur’an is an excellent exegesis of the Qur’an which presents the most complicated and intricate issues in an easily understandable format to the general readers. The explanation of each verse of the Qur’an guides the reader in understanding the complex affairs of life in an interesting manner. The focus is more on highlighting the impeccable beauty, the religious grandeur, the vastness and depth of the issues, the majesty of Allah’s words, the marvel of subtle meaning, and the timeless relevance of the Qur’an. It was a rarity that such a work of intensive investigation alluding to hundreds of published works was taken up in the twentieth century. The author does not shy away from quoting contradictory interpretations and tries to search for a balance before signing off with the words: “Allah knows best”. From my reading, I was able to make a list of 48 commentaries of the Qur’an and related works referred to and quoted by the author. No wonder this is a most sought-after tafseer by the Ulema of the Indian subcontinent.
The book follows a simple narrative style throughout. First, several verses of the Qur’an in the original Arabic are provided with their literal translation followed by details of the background in which these verses were revealed. Next, the author explores the meaning of the said verses delving into the root word, its grammatical connotation, its present usage, and its contextual meaning. After this follows a discussion on the subject matter, different interpretations by other commentators, and the applicability of the verses to the present day. More light is shed on the said verses by quoting the explanation, if any, available in a hadith. Lastly, the shade of meaning derived from the accounts of the noble Khulfa-e-Rashideen (the first four Khalifs), the blessed Sahaba, Tabayeen and Tabbe-tabayeen, if available, are explained.
The reader is fortunate to get the essence of the study of the Qur’an done by a number of brilliant commentators who had devoted their entire life to this purpose by just reading the ‘Ma’ariful Qur’an’. Some of the major commentaries of the Qur’an frequently quoted by the author are as follows:
1) Tafsir ibn Kathir
2) Tafsir al Jarir Tabari
3) Tafsir al-Qurtubi
4) Tafsir al-Kabir
5) Tafsir al-Bahr al-Muhit
6) Ahkam al-Qur’an by al-Jassas
7) Tafsir al-Durr al-Manthur
8) Tafsir al-Mazhari
9) Ruh al-Maani
Ma’ariful Qur’an has been translated into the English language by Prof. Muhammad Hassan Askari and Prof. Muhammad Shamim competently which has been revised by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, son of the author Mufti Muhammad Shafi. This great work has also been translated into Bengali, Gujrati, Hindi, and Persian languages.
End of a life of achievements
Moulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi left this world on 6th October 1976. A life packed with accomplishments came to an end leaving a legacy that benefits generations. May Allah reward him for his noble services and grant him Jannat ul firdose. Aameen.