Religion, Learning and Science in the `Abbasid Period by M. J. L. Young, J. D. Latham, R. B. Serjeant

By M. J. L. Young, J. D. Latham, R. B. Serjeant

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Tafslr would appear to lag behind the development o f other branches of the Tradition. Although the isnads o f the exegesis may not be original, neither are those o f the sunnah. ^® In the case o f the tafslr, the reduced role o f the Prophet is, however, conceded from the outset. Yet nothing disguises the fact that exegesis was being practised in the earliest times, and that the results o f the labours o f untold numbers o f anonymous Muslims have been preserved, however formally imperfect the manner o f their transmission.

Horst, “ Zur Obcrlieferung” , 291. , 306. THE LINGUISTIC APPROACH 45 the most striking feature o f the exegesis is its horror o f uncertainty. There is an unmistakable determination “ to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ ” . Nothing, however minute and insignificant, must remain unknown. To name the unnamed is ta'jlti al-mubham, while its concomitant, the dating of the undated (crucial for every allegation o f naskK)}^ is ashab al-nu^L Needful or not to our understanding o f G od’s message, detail is relentlessly pursued.

Al-'ArabI and 'Umar b. al-Fari^ (d. 652/1255) said it all and said it well. Nor were they inept at the use o f philosophical techniques. Indeed, some critics call their writings “ literature o f reflec­ tion” , steeped in ethical concepts. For them writing was not an end in itself, but rather the medium for stating the aspirations and endurements of the spirit and the soul yearning after its Maker, the attainment o f perfection in the realization o f G od ’s presence, and the ultimate transports o f the spirit when submerged in the divine.

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