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Israilliyat and Sufi Tafsirs

Answered by: Imam Abdul-Malik Sheikh


If Israiliyaat are not reliable, then why did some of the Sahabah narrate Israiliyaat?

Is there any Sufi Tafseer that’s well known? Mufti Taqi mentions Sufiyaa Kiraam ki Tafseer

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful


Israiliyāt is narrations from the people of the scripture which are not found in the Qur’an or the Sunnah. Such narrations are usually transmitted via the likes Ka’ab al-Ahbār, who used to be Rabbi before embracing Islam, and Wahb Ibn Munabbih, who specializes in this field.

There are hardly any books of Tafsir that do not contain such narrations. The Sahabah such as Abdullah Ibn Amr and Abū Hurayrah was known to accept Israiliyāt.

The basis for this is the following Hadith of the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):

“Convey from me, even a single verse. Narrate from the children of Israel, for there is no blame in it. Whoever deliberately lies about me, let him take his seat in Hellfire.” (Bukhāri)

Prior to this permission, there are narrations that strongly discourage Muslims from asking the people of the scripture. A close study of the matter reveals that the Sahabah did not accept Israiliyat unconditionally.

They only took from those that embraced Islam such as Ka’ab and Abdullah Ibn Salām. The number of narrations is very few and they did not narrate everything they came across They did not accept the narrations without any criticism or analysis.

That which conforms with the Qur’an and Sunnah is considered to be true or reliable. That which contradicts the Quran and Sunnah is considered to be false. That which is not in the Quran or Sunnah is neither true nor false.[1]

With regard to the second part of your question, I would like to mention that throughout ages people have taken different approaches to interpreting the Qur’an.

Some have taken the traditional approach of Tafsir with Quran, Hadith, and narrations from the early generation. Some have taken a literary or linguistic approach. Some have taken a legal approach focusing on legal rulings and some have even taken a spiritual or Sūfi approach to interpretation.

The first person known to take the spiritual or Sufi approach in Tafsir is Abū Abdurrahman Muhammad Ibn al-Hussain al-Sullami Al-Naysaburi (d. 412). He was a great Sufi as well as a great scholar of Hadith in his time. His book is called Haqā’iq al-Tafsir.

Another person known in this field is Muhyi Al-Dīn Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Muhammad Al-Tai Al-Hātimi who is famously known as Ibn Arabi (d. 637). He authored Fusūs Al-Hikam.

However, many scholars have criticized this approach. This is because the people who have adopted this approach claim that the Qur’an has apparent and hidden meanings. They focus on hidden meanings. [2]

Only Allah knows best

Written by Imam Abdul-Malik Sheikh

Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah

Darul Ifta Birmingham

[1] Al-Muqaddimāt Al-Asasiyyah Fi Ulūm Al -Qur’ān of Shaykh Judai p. 323

[2] Ibid p. 353

This answer was collected from DarulIftaBirmingham.co.uk, which is run under the supervision of Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah from the United Kingdom.