Tinggalkan komentar

Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s Traditional and Philosophical Approach to the Quran

Transcendent Philosophy © London Academy of Iranian Studies

Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s Traditional and
Philosophical Approach to the Quran

Seyed G Safavi
London Academy of Iranian Studies

The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary, a work
some ten years in the making, was recently published under the
chief editorship of Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr (University
Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University)
in collaboration with three translators and editors, and an

In his introduction to the work Professor Nasr
expresses the significant role the Quran has played in the
construction of a universal human culture and civilization in
general, and an Islamic civilization in particular. His words
contain valuable lessons regarding the Quran’s spiritual, ethical,
social, political, and economic teachings: “The Quran, then, is
the foundation of Muslim life and of Islamic civilization in all its
aspects. It is a sacred reality that accompanies Muslims
throughout their lives. It is at once the means of discernment
between truth and error, the criterion of judgement of their
actions, and their protector and source of grace and comfort. It is
both their judge and their friend; it inculcates in the soul both the
love and fear of God. For believers the Quran is not an
inanimate book, but the living Word of God. Its verses, words,
and even letters are living beings that speak to believers and also
mysteriously ‘hear’ them. The Sacred text is the Muslim’s
constant companion from the beginning to the end of life and
even beyond earthly life on the journey to that Reality from
which the Quran descended” (pp. xxxix-xl).
8 Seyed G Safavi

Preliminary Notes

Since the seventeenth century, dozens of English translations of the
Quran have been produced. Two noteworthy translations, one by a
Western, non-Muslim scholar of Islam and the other by a Muslim
scholar of Islam working in a Western University are those of
Arthur Arberry and M.A.S. Abdel Haleem respectively. Amongst
the scores of English translations of the Quran, a consistent problem
that we find is that there are many errors in the translations
themselves, and this because the respective translators have at times
not understood the correct senses of the Arabic phrases, terms, and
expressions employed in the Quran. Other problems are inherent to
the translators’ English word choices in rendering the rich,
polysemic nature of Quranic Arabic.

For instance, Muhammad Asad’s translation, although quite precise
in certain places, tends to be too overly rationalistic and even
scientistic, with the net effect that he will render certain Quranic
terms and phrases which are deeply symbolic, mystical, and
philosophical along purely rationalistic and hence flat lines.
Although benefiting from the well-established translations of the
Quran into English, such as the aforementioned translations of
Arberry, Abdel Haleem, and Asad, The Study Quran also consulted
other significant English translations, particularly the popular
renderings of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Muhammad Marmaduke
Pickthall, and ‘Ali Quli Qara’i. Its deficiencies in translation
notwithstanding, The Study Quran undoubtedly presents us with the
most accurate and most beautiful English translation of the Quran to

One can even venture to say that this new translation, both from the
perspective of its eloquence and its rootedness in the Islamic
tradition, takes us as close as possible to the sense and “feel” of the
original Arabic text.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s Traditional and Philosophical Approach to the Quran 9

Following Nasr’s lengthy introduction and some highly useful front
matter which facilitates engagement with the work, The Study
Quran contains four main sections:
(1) English translation. This takes up over 1500 pages, as it is
accompanied by a full, running commentary upon each verse of the
Quran. The translation is distinguished from the commentary by
being placed at the top of the page, and by being in a font that is
larger than the commentary directly below it. The verses in the
translation are marked off by beautiful red medallions, each of
which contains a number which corresponds to the verse number in
(2) Commentary. The commentary, over 900,000 words in length,
is an extensive, curated guide to the history of Quranic
interpretation. Each Quranic chapter contains an introduction,
which is then followed by an in-depth commentary. The most
elaborate introduction and commentary belongs to the first chapter
of the Quran, the Fātiᒒa (Q 1). The commentary on the first verse of
Q 1 alone occupies a full page of continuous insight, culled from
the traditional sources of Shia and Sunni tafsīr. This is the method
employed in the commentaries on all the other Quranic chapters as
well: to draw on a wide range of the most authentic and widely
accepted Quranic commentarial materials, beginning with Muqātil
b. Sulaymān (8th century) and ending with ᦧAllāma ᐅabāᒷabāᦦī (20th
century). The number of tafsīr sources employed are 41 titles in
total. Since there are literally thousands of classical tafsīrs, the very
process of choosing which titles to include and which to exclude
itself constitutes an act of intellectual effort on the part of Professor
Nasr, and gives us an idea of his exegetical approach (for which, see
below). It can here be noted that modernist and fundamentalist
commentaries were not consulted in preparing the commentary for
The Study Quran.

(3) Essays. Fifteen essays follow the translation and commentary.
They themselves constitute a book sufficient unto itself. The Study
Quran’s associate editors each contributed articles, while the other
essay contributors comprise some of the leading, Muslim academics
from both east and west. The topics covered are wide-ranging. We
have, for example, essays on the nature of Quranic Arabic and its
impact on Islamic learned culture (M.A.S. Abdel Haleem), how to
read the Quran (Ingrid Mattson), a survey of the tafsīr tradition
(Walid Saleh), the relationship between mysticism and the Quran
(William Chittick), and the intellectual sciences and the Quran
(Muᒲᒷafā Muᒒaqqiq Dāmād).

(4) Appendices, Index, and Maps. There are several appendices
which offer us biographies of the Quran commentators consulted on
the one hand, and the essay contributors on the other. Another
appendix traces the sources for all of the Hadiths cited in The Study
Quran’s commentary. There is also an extensive topical index,
which facilitates research, as well as eight colourful maps which
allow readers to visually contextualize key events and places in
early Islamic history.


Given the increasing volume of attacks against Islam and Muslims
in Western media, and the related depiction of the Quran as the
primary source of violence in the actions of those who terrorize in
the name of Islam, The Study Quran will play a significant role in
opposing and correcting this kind of media onslaught. That is
because The Study Quran presents the verses of the Quran in clear
and eloquent English, while also allowing the commentarial
apparatus, culled as it is from a wide variety of linguistic, social,
theological, mystical, philosophical, and historical materials, to
clarify the contexts of these verses. The work will also gain
widespread acceptance on account of Professor Nasr’s wellestablished
record of scholarly publication and his great authority as
Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s Traditional and Philosophical Approach to the Quran 11
a foremost interpreter of Islam, both for academic and lay

At the same time, The Study Quran is also concerned with creating
greater unity between Shias and Sunnis by drawing on the
exegetical sources from both perspectives. This in and of itself is a
most significant achievement, marking as it does the first time in the
history of tafsīr wherein a work which consists of mostly Sunni
exegetical voices gives such pride of place to the opinions of the
great Shia exegetes. The editors in fact have placed both Sunni and
Shia opinions alongside one another in a non-partisan and unbiased

It is important to note that, of the 41 commentators employed in this
book, a considerable number of them have historically belonged to
the Iranian cultural zone. This indeed demonstrates the significant
role Iranians have played in the history of Quranic exegesis. It is
also significant that Professor Nasr has included the great
commentary of his famous teacher, the aforementioned ᦧAllāma
ᐅabāᒷabāᦦī. While showing great deference and respect for his
teacher, Professor Nasr’s choice to include ᦧAllāma ᐅabāᒷabāᦦī’s
commentary was undoubtedly motivated by the fact that his work
has such valuable analytical and philosophical content.
Professor Nasr’s full command of two Islamic languages (namely
Arabic and Persian), his intimacy with the Quran from childhood,
his profound knowledge of English and the goals and needs of
English readers, and his wide-ranging expertise in Islamic
philosophy, mysticism, and science, have all come together in the
production of The Study Quran. We can also note that the main
mystical exegeses of the Quran, such as those of Tustarī, Sulamī,
and Maybudī, are also prominently featured in The Study Quran.
This is why any unbiased reader would easily be able to detect the
scent of Quranic wisdom and spirituality which punctuates The
Study Quran’s every page. At the same time, the Quran’s
timelessness as a source for ethical and social guidance is equally emphasized throughout this work. It is clear that Professor Nasr’s
high regard for the Shia tradition, and, in fact, the sayings of the
Imams, have been a source of inspiration for The Study Quran’s
open-minded approach.

Considerations for Future Editions

Since The Study Quran employs a verse-by-verse method of
commentary, it prevents the reader from comprehending the overall
message conveyed in each Quranic chapter. It would be better if, at
the beginning of each chapter, the overall message of the respective
chapter is presented, almost in the form of a table of contents. This
will further facilitate understanding, particularly when it comes to
some of the Quran’s lengthier chapters, such as chapters 2, 3, 4, 5,

Also, Gunābādī’s Tafsīr Bayān al-Saᦧāda, which is perhaps the
most important early modern mystical commentary upon the Quran,
should be consulted. And, lastly, it would be good if the Arabic text
of the Quran is somehow included in this work, even if it means
having it in a smaller font.

1 The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary, edited by
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Caner Dagli, Maria Dakake, Joseph Lumbard, and
Mohammed Rustom (New York: HarperOne, 2015).

Tinggalkan Balasan

Isikan data di bawah atau klik salah satu ikon untuk log in:

Logo WordPress.com

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Logout /  Ubah )

Foto Google

You are commenting using your Google account. Logout /  Ubah )

Gambar Twitter

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Logout /  Ubah )

Foto Facebook

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Logout /  Ubah )

Connecting to %s

Atlantis in the Java Sea

A scientific effort to match Plato’s narrative location for Atlantis


Membahas ISU-ISU Penting bagi Anak Bangsa, Berbagi Ide, dan Saling Cinta




The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

Covert Geopolitics

Beyond the Smoke & Mirrors

Catatan Harta Amanah Soekarno

as good as possible for as many as possible

Modesty - Women Terrace

My Mind in Words and Pictures

Kanzunqalam's Blog

AKAL tanpa WAHYU, akan berbuah, IMAN tanpa ILMU


Cakrawala, menapaki kehidupan nusantara & dunia


hacking the religion


Just another WordPress.com site


WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

%d blogger menyukai ini: