Outlines of early IsmāeĪLĪ-Fātimid Qur'Ān exegesis

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Despite the significant role of the Qur'ān and its exegesis in Ismā'īlī Shī'ism, systematic exegesis - as found in Sunnism and in Imāmī Shī'ism - did not develop within this branch of Islam. The most plausible explanation for this disparity of systematic written commentaries has to do with, the existence of a permanent Imamate. The Imam is considered a living authority always on hand to interpret: the Word of God to his community. His availability makes written exegesis less crucial and in some sense even superfluous. Imāmī Shī'ism, in contrast, believes in the occultation of the last Imam and. has consequently delegated some of his functions -including knowledge the Qur'ān and its exegesis - to the clergy. The present: article aims at filling a lacuna in our knowledge of early Ismā'īlīFātimid Qur'ān exegesis, i.e. up to the 4th/10th century. It discusses a few major issues: the need, to interpret the Qur'ān; the authority to do so; the selective nature of Ismā'īlī exegesis in focusing on. some parts of the Qur'ān rather than others; the tension between the inner (bātiri) and the outer (zāhir) layers of the Qur'ān, which is one of the most fundamental features of Shī'ī hermeneutics, and. the methods and. techniques of exegesis. The article also offers a brief survey of Ismā'īlī writings that can be defined as exegetical, in particular the works of Ja'far b. Mansūr al-Yaman (d. in the second half of the 4lh/1oth century) and Abu Hanīfa b. Muhammad b. Mansūr b. Ahmad b. Hayyūn al-Tamīmī, better known as al-Qādī al-Nu'mān (d. 363/974), both of whom are among the prominent preachers (du'āt) of the Ismā'īlī- Fātimid movement, in its formative period.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)257-295
Number of pages39
JournalJournal Asiatique
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008


  • Esoterism
  • Fātimids
  • Ismā'īlism
  • Qur'ān exegesis
  • Shī'ism


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