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On the Allegedly Overstated Importance of at-̣ Tạ barī (d. 310/922) within the Sunnī Exegetical Tradition: An Answer to Walid Saleh

Mehmet Akif Koç

Pages 343 - 358


The classical tafsīr work Ǧāmiʿ al-bayān ʿan taʾwīl āy al-Qurʾān by aṭ-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923) has long served as the basis for much of what we know about the early Islamic exegetical tradition, and it continues to be a central focus of scholarly attention. In a recent article, based on a comparison with al-Māturīdī’s (d. 333/944) Taʾwīlāt al-Qurʾān, Walid Saleh has challenged the consensus on aṭ-Ṭabarī’s central role in the history of tafsīr. He argues that modern scholars have misinterpreted aṭ-Ṭabarī’s tafsīr as an encyclopedia of the Sunnī exegetical tradition. The present article, albeit welcoming the comparative approach of Saleh’s article, explores some of the pitfalls of his reassessment and shows that hasty generalizations have led him to draw false conclusions, including his assumption that aṭ-Ṭabarī makes use of the Tafsīr of Muqātil ibn Sulaimān (d. 150/767), while camouflaging his name. On a more general level, the article stresses the need to pair new methodologies with the wealth of existing scholarly knowledge derived from more traditional approaches.


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