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I'm brushing up on exegetical works pertaining to the Qur'an, and I keep coming across this term: "tafsirbi’l-ma’thur." Can someone provide me with a clear definition of the term and help me understand it? It seems very central to what I'm reading.

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The term tafsir (التفسير) itself refers any exegetical work on the Qur'an. There are essentially two types of tafsir:

  • Tafsir bi'l ma'thur (التفسير بالمأثور): refers to those tafasir in which the exegesis is predominantly derived from authentic sources, such as other Qur'anic verses, sahih ahadith, or established sunnah.
  • Tafsir bi'l ra'y (التفسير بالراي): refers to those tafasir which are derived in part or in whole from personal interpretation and opinion.
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    I wouldn't say that the exgesis is derived entirely from aurthentic sources. But it relays mainly on them and of course on Arabic language (for example they use pre-Islamic poetry as a source of language or to describe or show a meaning) and most of them relay also on Israeliyat: stories of Banu Isreal or from Poeple of the book, when it comes to the stories of tghe Prophets etc.. – Medi1Saif Sep 2 '16 at 6:50
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    @Medi1Saif Yeah, this is a bit of a simplistic explanation. But afaik even then there's hard limits on exactly what can be explained using such sources (eg: explaining grammar? good. explaining aqidah? bad.), and detailing all that is probably out of scope for this answer. Or at least more than I'm confident answering based on my own knowledge right now; maybe after more research. – goldPseudo Sep 2 '16 at 7:02

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