Chapter

Are There Allegories in Ṣūfī Qurʼān Interpretation?

Hava Lazarus-Yafeh

in With Reverence for the Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195137279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849482 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195137279.003.0024
Are There Allegories in Ṣūfī Qurʼān Interpretation?

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Sūfī Qurʼān interpretation is well known for both its beautiful metaphors and enigmatic mystical depths. From Sahl al-Tustarī to Pseudo-Ibn al-Arabī—and even before and after these protagonists—this literature flourished among other genres of mystical literature, often using the Qurʼān as an external framework or even only as a pretext to give expression to mystical ideas, metaphors, similitudes, or stories. Mystical metaphors occur in several Sūfī commentaries of the Qurʼān, for example with regard to the famous Verse of Light in Q 24:35 or the dog that accompanied the famous Sleepers in Q 18:18 and in many other instances. Most Sūfī authors, however, do not go much further than using similes and metaphors in their Qurʼānic interpretations. One can discern a clear trend of avoidance of the use of allegories in Sūfī Qurʼān interpretation, as in most medieval Muslim religious literature. One reason is that allegory was seen as a potential threat to religious thought and practice, especially with respect to the basic dogmas of Islam and the punctilious performance of the religious commandments.

Keywords: Sūfī; Qurʼān; interpretation; commentaries; allegories; Islam; metaphors; Sahl al-Tustarī; Verse of Light

Chapter.  5797 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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