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Encyclopedia > Esoteric interpretation of the Qur'an

An esoteric interpretation of the Qur’an is an interpretation of the Qur’an which includes attribution of esoteric or mystic meanings to the text by the interpretater and in this aspect its method is different from the conventional exegesis of the Qur’an called tafsir. Esoteric interpretations usually do not contradict the conventional, in this context called exoteric interpretations, instead , they discuss the inner levels of meaning of the Qur’an. A hadith from Mohammad which states that the Qur’an has an inner meaning and that inner meaning conceals a yet deeper inner meaning up to seven levels of meaning, has sometimes been used in support of this view.[1],[2].Islamic opinion imposes strict limitations on esoteric interpretations. Interpretation, or interpreting, is an activity that consists of establishing, either simultaneously or consecutively, oral or gestural communications between two or more speakers who are not speaking (or signing) the same language. ... The Quran (Arabic: al-qurān literally the recitation; also called Al Qurān Al KarÄ«m or The Noble Quran; or transliterated Quran, Koran, and less commonly Alcoran) is the holy book of Islam. ... Etymology Esoteric is an adjective originating during Hellenic Greece under the domain of the Roman Empire; it comes from the Greek esôterikos, from esôtero, the comparative form of esô: within. It is a word meaning anything that is inner and occult, a latinate word meaning hidden (from which... Mysticism (ancient Greek mysticon = secret) is meditation, prayer, or theology focused on the direct experience of union with divinity, God, or Ultimate Reality, or the belief that such experience is a genuine and important source of knowledge. ... This article discusses textual hermeneutics. ... The Quran (Arabic: al-qurān literally the recitation; also called Al Qurān Al KarÄ«m or The Noble Quran; or transliterated Quran, Koran, and less commonly Alcoran) is the holy book of Islam. ... A tafsir ( (Arabic: تفسير )tafsÄ«r, also transliterated tafseer, Arabic explanation) is Quranic exegesis or commentary. ... Exoteric knowledge is knowledge that is publicly available, in contrast with esoteric knowledge, which is kept from everyone except the initiated. ... Hadith (Arabic: , Arabic pl. ... Muhammad (Arabic محمد, also transliterated Mohammad, Mohammed, and formerly Mahomet, following the Latin) is revered by Muslims as the final prophet of God. ... The Quran (Arabic: al-qurān literally the recitation; also called Al Qurān Al KarÄ«m or The Noble Quran; or transliterated Quran, Koran, and less commonly Alcoran) is the holy book of Islam. ...


Esoteric interpretations are found mainly in Sufism and sayings (hadiths) of Shi'a Imams and teachings of Isma'ili sect. Sufism (Arabic تصوف taṣawwuf) is a mystic tradition of Islam based on the pursuit of spiritual truth as it is gradually revealed to the heart and mind of the Sufi (one who practices Sufism). ... Hadith (Arabic: , Arabic pl. ... The Shia Imam is considered by the Shia sect of Islam to be the rightful successor to Muhammad, and is similar to the Caliph in Sunni Islam. ... The Ismaili (Persian: اسماعیلیان Esmâiliyân) branch of Islam is the second largest Shia community, after the Twelvers who are dominant in Iran. ...

Contents


Islamic legitimacy

There is almost no dispute among muslims that the Qur’an has concealed meanings. The existence of the Qur'anic initial letters is often mentioned in connection with this belief. [3]. A Muslim (Arabic: مسلم) is an adherent of Islam. ... The Quran (Arabic: al-qurān literally the recitation; also called Al Qurān Al KarÄ«m or The Noble Quran; or transliterated Quran, Koran, and less commonly Alcoran) is the holy book of Islam. ... A tree diagram of the Quranic initial letters, labelled with the respective numbers of occurrences. ...


So it is the authenticity of the person who extracts these meanings which is the matter of debate.


Naturally Mohammad is considered authentic in interpretation of the Qur'an in any form but his interpretations even when discussing esoteric matters are actually standard definitions of Qur'anic concepts due to his position as prophet of Islam. Muhammad (Arabic محمد, also transliterated Mohammad, Mohammed, and formerly Mahomet, following the Latin) is revered by Muslims as the final prophet of God. ... A definition may be a statement of the essential properties of a certain thing, or a statement of equivalence between one expression and another, usually more complex expression that gives the meaning of the first. ... A prophet is a person who is believed to communicate with God, or with a deity. ... Islām is described as a dÄ«n, meaning way of life and/or guidance. ...


There is a verse in Qur’an related to esoteric interpretations:


He it is who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical.But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except God. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.(Sura 3:7 [4]) Surat āl-Imrān (The Family of Amram) is the 3rd sura of the Quran with 200 ayat. ...


In the verse quoted above there is a stop between …except Allah and And those who.. and reading this way the verse attributes the knowledge of the Qur’an’s hidden meanings to God alone. By removing the stop it becomes:" ...no one knows its hidden meaning except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge, say…" which suggests that those firmly grounded in knowledge can extract these hidden meanings.


Both forms are valid in Arabic language, Sunni muslims usually read the verse with stop , while Shi'a muslims usually read it without stop and consider their Imams, which according to Shi'a belief are the heirs of Mohammad’s knowledge, to be authorized to explain these hidden meanings.A Sunni view,A Shi'a view. The Arabic language (; , less formally, ) is the largest member of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family (classification: South Central Semitic) and is closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic. ... Sunni Islam (Arabic سنّة) is the largest denomination of Islam. ... Shia Islam ( Arabic شيعى follower; English has traditionally used Shiite or Shiite) is the second largest Islamic denomination; some 20-25% of all Muslims are said to follow a Shia tradition. ... The Shia Imam is considered by the Shia sect of Islam to be the rightful successor to Muhammad, and is similar to the Caliph in Sunni Islam. ... Muhammad (Arabic محمد, also transliterated Mohammad, Mohammed, and formerly Mahomet, following the Latin) is revered by Muslims as the final prophet of God. ...


In Sufi tradition, it is beleived that the esoteric meanings of Qur'an can be extracted through mystic experiences and as such esoteric interpretations presented by Sufi Shaykhs are considered authentic. Sufism (Arabic تصوف taṣawwuf) is a system of esoteric philosophy commonly associated with Islam. ... Sufism (Arabic تصوف taṣawwuf) is a system of esoteric philosophy commonly associated with Islam. ... Shaikh (شيخ, also rendered as Sheik, Shaykh or Sheikh) is a word in the Arabic language meaning an elder or a revered old man. ...


Sufi interpretations usually are not accepted by Islamic scholars as authentic interpretations, tafsir.In some cases in history of Sufism these interpretations were considered religeous innovation, bid'ah.Today the majority of muslims except Salafis [5] , respect Sufi interpretations at least as an alternative view of the Qur'an[6]. Islām is described as a dīn, meaning way of life and/or guidance. ... A tafsir ( (Arabic: تفسير )tafsīr, also transliterated tafseer, Arabic explanation) is Quranic exegesis or commentary. ... Bidah (Arabic: بدعه ) is an Islamic term meaning innovation of religious beliefs or worship. ... A Salafi (Arabic سلفي referring to early Muslim), from the Arabic word Salafسلف (literally meaning predecessors or early generations), is an adherent of a contemporary movement in Sunni Islam that is sometimes called Salafism or Wahhabism. ...


Isma'ili interpretations are generally rejected by other muslims. The Ismaili (Persian: اسماعیلیان Esmâiliyân) branch of Islam is the second largest Shia community, after the Twelvers who are dominant in Iran. ...


Sufism

Throughout its history , Sufism has widely used esoteric interpretation of the Qur’an.The metaphysical basis of a Sufi interpretation is Kashf (revelation) or Zawq (tasting).Sufi writings make frequent references to the Qur’an and present esoteric interpretations either explicitly or implicitly. Implicit forms being quoting a verse in a certain context which suggests that the meaning of the verse is related to the ideas presented. Sufism (Arabic تصوف tasÌ£awwuf) is a mystic tradition of Islam based on the pursuit of spiritual truth as it is gradually revealed to the heart and mind of the Sufi (one who practices Sufism). ... Etymology Esoteric is an adjective originating during Hellenic Greece under the domain of the Roman Empire; it comes from the Greek esôterikos, from esôtero, the comparative form of esô: within. It is a word meaning anything that is inner and occult, a latinate word meaning hidden (from which... Interpretation, or interpreting, is an activity that consists of establishing, either simultaneously or consecutively, oral or gestural communications between two or more speakers who are not speaking (or signing) the same language. ...


There are some verses in the Qur’an whose conventional interpretations suggest mystic ideas and Sufis have commented extensively on them.


While all Sufi interpretations are basically mystic, three major trends in Sufi interpretations can be recognized, mystic, philosophic, and esoteric. Mysticism (ancient Greek mysticon = secret) is meditation, prayer, or theology focused on the direct experience of union with divinity, God, or Ultimate Reality, or the belief that such experience is a genuine and important source of knowledge. ... Mysticism (ancient Greek mysticon = secret) is meditation, prayer, or theology focused on the direct experience of union with divinity, God, or Ultimate Reality, or the belief that such experience is a genuine and important source of knowledge. ... Philosophy (from the Greek words philos and sophia meaning love of wisdom) is understood in different ways historically and by different philosophers. ... Etymology Esoteric is an adjective originating during Hellenic Greece under the domain of the Roman Empire; it comes from the Greek esôterikos, from esôtero, the comparative form of esô: within. It is a word meaning anything that is inner and occult, a latinate word meaning hidden (from which...


The distinction is not always clear and sometimes these coexist in works of a particular Sufi author.


Historically the mystic interpretations were the first to appear in Sufi writings, the second and third being philosophic and esoteric interpretations.


A famous Sufi commentary on the Qur’an, the Persian book Kashf Al Asrar (The Unveiling of the Mysteries) by Meybodi, mentions conventional interpretations as the first level of meaning and esoteric interpretations as a deeper level. Persian (فارسی = Fârsi . ...


It is common in Sufi writings to explain three or four levels of meaning of a Qur’anic concept.


Mystic Sufi interpretations

These are purely mystical interpretations of the text and at times have a poetic nature, little to no attempt is made for justification of these interpretations and they are presented as mystic insights to the meaning of the Qur'an.


Some examples include:

  • Interpreting religious terms as describing inner qualities:

These interpretations are sometimes mystic comments on religious concepts. For example in " Say: O unbelievers! I worship not that which you worship"(109/1-2) unbelievers is taken to mean individual self , or the women of paradise , houri , are interpreted as divine visions. Jannah is the Islamic name for paradise. ... In Islam, the houri (حورية), Hour -ul-`Ein or hawra’ in Arabic, are described as fair women of Paradise awaiting devout Muslims. ...

  • Interpreting Qur’anic stories from a mystic perspective:

These interpretations are aimed at explanation of the mystic meaning of the stories and are found frequently in Sufi poems and prose, for example in The Conference of the Birds, Attar, in reference to the Qur’anic story of descent of Adam and Eve to Earth, writes that "Adam was too lofty to be satisfied with paradise and an unseen messenger cried to him to leave his attachments to everything that hampers his journey towards God , be it paradise". This article is about the Persian book of poems. ... Farid ad-Din Attar (farÄ«du-d-dÄ«n aṭṭār ; ca. ... According to the Book of Genesis in the Christian Bible and Judaisms Torah, and to Islams Quran, Adam was the first man created by God. ...

  • Poetic interpretations:

These interpretations view Qur’an from a poetic perspective and seek to find subtle meanings related to divine love in the verses , an example which is found frequently in Sufi writings, specially poems, being the interpretation of "By the glorious morning light, And by the night when it is still" (93/1-2) as God’s reference to the face and hair of Mohammad.

  • Interpreting a verse in a sense very different from its conventional meaning:

For example in his book Tamheedat , Ayn-al-Qudat Hamadani interprets "The fire of God kindled ablaze , which doth mount to the hearts"(104/6-7) which conventionally refers to the punishment in hell , as passion of divine love and interprets "the day Earth becomes that which is not Earth" which conventionally describes the day of judgment as a description of the moment of spiritual awakening or enlightenment. Ayn-al-Qudat Hamadani (1098-1131) was an Iranian jurisconsult, gnostic, philosopher and mathematician who was killed in the 33rd year of his life. ... Yaum al-Qiyâmah (يوم القيامة; literally: Day of the Resurrection (Quran 71. ... See: Spirituality Spiritual music Spiritual dance The Age of Spiritual Machines Spiritual possession This is a disambiguation page, a list of pages that otherwise might share the same title. ... Enlightenment may refer to: Enlightenment (concept), a concept in mysticism, philosophy and psychology For the Hindu religious concept of enlightenment, see moksha For the Buddhist religious concept, see Bodhi, Satori For the Yoga concept of enlightenment, see Yogic Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment, a period in European history For the...

Sometimes only a vague comment and sometimes a comment on each letter is given [7].Although Sufis insist that these initial letters conceal mysteries that can not be fully expressed in words and should be understood by means of mystic experiences. A tree diagram of the Quranic initial letters, labelled with the respective numbers of occurrences. ...

  • Mystic remarks concerning Qur’anic verses like the famous saying "I am the dot of (Arabic alphabet: ب) (English: B) of Bismillah" attributed to various Sufis including Shibli.Many Sufis have commented on it as description of a form of union with the divine essence.

The Arabic alphabet is the script used for writing in the Arabic language. ... The English language has been written using the Latin alphabet from ca. ... Phrases containing Allah Allah is Arabic for God and is the only god (monotheism) in the religion of Islam. ... The concept of the divine or of The Divine, meaning matters relating to a god, forms an important ingredient in many religious faiths (but compare Buddhism, for example, or Scientology). ... In philosophy, essence is the attribute (or set of attributes) that make an object or substance what it fundamentally is. ...

Philosophic Sufi Interpretations

These interpretations have a philosophical structure and sometimes serve as the basis of a mystic philosophy. Mysticism (ancient Greek mysticon = secret) is meditation, prayer, or theology focused on the direct experience of union with divinity, God, or Ultimate Reality, or the belief that such experience is a genuine and important source of knowledge. ... These five broad types of question are called analytical or logical, epistemological, ethical, metaphysical, and aesthetic respectively. ...


Hallaj was one of the early Sufis who presented such interpretations .For example he deeply speculated on Qur’anic idea of creation by the word Be! , which appears frequently in Qur’an e.g. : "...When He determines a matter, says to it, "Be", and it is."(19/35) ...


The most influental works in this area are those of Ibn Arabi.Each chapter of his book Fusus al-Hikam (The Bezels of Wisdom) [8] , is dedicated to a prophet mentioned in Qur’an which he attributes to a particular word (logos) or divine manifestation that is the subject of the chapter.Throughout the book (and all his works indeed) he widely uses daring and very thoughtful esoteric interpretations of Qur'anic verses.He also wrote two commentaries of the Qur'an. This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... The Quran (Arabic: al-qurān literally the recitation; also called Al Qurān Al KarÄ«m or The Noble Quran; or transliterated Quran, Koran, and less commonly Alcoran) is the holy book of Islam. ...


Many similiar Sufi interpretations are inspired by Ibn Arabi' works.Specialy works of Akbari school. This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ...


Esoteric Sufi Interpretations

These are bodies of esoteric knowledge associated with Qur’anic concepts which have practical importance for some Sufis, a famous example is the theories concerning the six subtlities or lataif-e-sitta. Esoteric knowledge is knowledge that is secret or not generally known. ... Drawing from Quranic verses, virtually all Sufis distinguish Lataif-e-Sitta (The six subtleties), Nafs, Qalb, Sirr, Ruh, Khafi & Akhfa. ...


Hadiths of Shi’a Imams

One of the essential characteristics of Imams in Shi'a belief is possession of knowledge of hidden meanings of Qur’an.Although it is believed by Shi'a muslims that they revealed only a small portion of their knowledge.All hadiths of Imams are considered sources of conventional interpretation of Qur'an, tafsir, in Shi'a Islam. The Shia Imam is considered by the Shia sect of Islam to be the rightful successor to Muhammad, and is similar to the Caliph in Sunni Islam. ... Shia Islam or Shi`ism (from the Arabic word شيعة, short for the historic phrase shi`at `Ali شيعة علي, meaning the followers of Ali) is the second-largest Islamic denomination. ... A tafsir ( (Arabic: تفسير )tafsÄ«r, also transliterated tafseer, Arabic explanation) is Quranic exegesis or commentary. ...


Shi’a muslims sometimes refer to the twelfth Shi'a Imam , Mahdi, as Baqiyyat Allah (Arabic: بقیه الله ) literally meaning that which is left by God, the term is originally derived from a Qur’anic verse (Sura 11:86 , [9]) according to an esoteric interpretation.[10] The Shia Imam is considered by the Shia sect of Islam to be the rightful successor to Muhammad, and is similar to the Caliph in Sunni Islam. ... Muhammad al-Mahdi (868 - ?) is the twelfth and final Imam of the Shia. ... The Arabic language (; , less formally, ) is the largest member of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family (classification: South Central Semitic) and is closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic. ... Sura Hud (Arabic سورة هود) is the 11th sura of the Quran. ...


There are many esoteric interpretations presented by Shi'a Imams, most of them by Ja'far al-Sadiq and Mohammad Baqir. These hadiths usually interpret certain verses in connection with Mohammad’s house, Ahlul Bayt.[11] Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (April 20, 702 – December 4, 765), in full Jafar ibn Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Husayn, was the sixth Shia imam, and a theologian and jurist. ... Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Muhammad al-Baqir Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (676 - January 31, 743) was the fifth Shia Imam. ... This is an Arabic phrase literally translated as People of the House, or family. ...


A Shi'a hadith attributed to Ja'far al-Sadiq, which is an esoteric comment on sura Al-Qadr: Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (April 20, 702 – December 4, 765), in full Jafar ibn Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Husayn, was the sixth Shia imam, and a theologian and jurist. ... See also: Sura (disambiguation). ... Surat Al-Qadr (Power, Fate) is the 97th sura of the Quran with 5 ayat. ...

  • One who understands the true meaning of the night of fate, has understood the mystery concealed in Fatima. Citation needed

Laylat ul-Qadr (Arabic: لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ ) (Night of Power) is the anniversary of the night on which, according to Islam, the Quran was first communicated to Muhammad (see surat Iqra. ... Fatima Zahra also called Fatemeh Al Zahraa or Az-Zahra (Arabic: ) was the daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his first wife Khadija. ...

References

  • Sufism
  • An online library containing Sufi commentaries on the Qur'an
  • An online version of Ibn Arabi's The Bezels of Wisdom
  • Articles on Sufi commentaries on the Qur'an
  • Salafis criticism of Sufism
  • Shi'a Islam
  • An online library of Shi'a texts including hadith
  • Al-Islam , a digital library of Shi'a materials
  • A site about the Qur'an from a Shi'a perspective
  • A Shi'a information center
  • General Tafsir
  • A classic Tafsir by Ibn Khatir

External links

  • Sufi esoteric interpretations of the Qur'anic verses related to Jesus from Ibn Arabi Society
  • Ismailism
  • Mystical philosophy in Islam

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