Lifelong Learning Articles

Shi‘i Ismaili Interpretations of the Holy Qur’an

Key words

Fatimidsinfo-icon, Qur’aninfo-icon, ta’wilinfo-icon, tawhidinfo-icon, shari‘ainfo-icon, zahirinfo-icon, batininfo-icon, salat, Adam

Given the whole spectrum of views that have developed throughout Ismaili history, it is not easy to define any one of these as representing an exclusive form of Ismaili interpretation. Focusing on the Fatimid period, this article attempts to develop a basis for understanding Shi’i Ismaili interpretations of the Holy Qur’an. It illustrates how the Ismailis used the foundational doctrine of ta’wil as a tool to interpret Qur’anic concepts such as tawhid, Creation, Prophecy, shari‘a and Adam. Believing that mere zahir without batin is not complete; they see each human being as part of a purposeful sacred history, imbued with Divine purpose where human destiny is exalted, moving forwards and upwards to its origin.

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This is an edited version of an article that appeared in Selected Proceedings of the International Congress for the Study of the Qur’aninfo-icon, pp.39-49 in 1980.

Given the whole spectrum of views that have developed throughout Ismaili history, it is not easy to define any one of these as representing an exclusive form of Ismaili interpretation. Focusing on the ...