Criteria for dating early tafsir traditions: The exegetical traditions and variant readings of Abu Mijlaz Lahiq b. Humayd

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Abstract

The question of the beginnings of Qurʾānic exegesis has been highly controversial in Western scholarship for more than a century, with positions ranging from a beginning of exegesis at the time of the Prophet Muḥammad to its emergence not before first half of the second/eighth century. The opposing positions arise from very different approaches to the sources taken by different scholars as well as the underlying assumptions that guide their research. This article aims to overcome these differences by developing criteria that allow for the dating of allegedly early exegetical traditions and for the assessment of the reliability of their ascription to specific authorities of the first/seventh century. These criteria will then be applied to the exegetical traditions attributed to Abū Mijlaz Lāḥiq b. Ḥumayd, a Basran scholar who died sometime before 110/728. The article will show that the traditions circulated in the name of Abū Mijlaz must be considered to go back to him and thus allow us to get an insight into what exegesis in the first century was like. It will also demonstrate that the focus on minor figures rather than on major authorities is the most promising approach to unearth authentic traditions from the first century of Islam.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-338
JournalJerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam
Volume49
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2021

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