Academic Programs 

Tafsir Survey: Reading the Qur’an across the Ages*(SC-580) 
Winter/Spring 2009
In this class we will survey the range of tafsir literature, from the early days, to the classical period and then modernity. Students will study the history of Qur’ân commentary, the sub-genres of tafsir literature, biographies of the great scholars of Qur’ân commentary and their methodologies. Much of the time will be spent reading selections of the Qur’ân with their various commentaries. Arabic is not required, but students who can, will read Arabic original sources. Other students will read from translations or original works produced in other languages.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates:*
Tuesdays, 4:30 p.m. - 6:50 p.m., beginning Feb. 3


Ingrid Mattson
Director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Director of Islamic Chaplaincy Program, Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9531


Course Syllabus

Required Reading:

We will be relying mostly on books published in the Great Commentaries of the Holy Qur’an Series. These books are published by Fons Vitae and can be ordered directly from them at: These are expensive books and many students will not be able to order all of them. Fons Vitae is offering a discount to Hartford Seminary students if they order from them directly.

If you can read Arabic, or another traditional Islamic language, you can bring a copy of the original text to class and use that instead of or along side of the English translation.

Here are some classical tafsirs available in English translation; you might find others:

Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas, trans. Mokrane Guezzou.
Abu ‘Ubayd al-Qasim ibn Sallam, al-Nasikh wa’l-Mansukh, ed. John Burton.
Al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul, Mokrane Guezzou.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir, abridged by Muhammad Nasib ar-Rafa`i
Tafsir al-Jalalayn, trans. Feras Hamza.
Tafsir al-Tustari, trans. Annabel and Ali Keeler.
There are a number of translations of modern tafsirs by S. Nursi, M. Mawdudi, S. Qutb and others.


For weeks 2-13, students will be required to submit a summary of their reading (all students can skip any two weeks during that time for a total of 10 submissions). Each week we will research a particular theme or topic of the Qur’an. Students are required to find passages in the Qur’an that address that theme/topic and then study the tafsir of those passages. For some weeks, I have suggested some passages, but students are not required to confine themselves to those selections. Here are the guidelines for the summaries:

- Approximately 3 pages (5 pages maximum)
- 1-3 selections from the Qur’an that address that topic/theme
- At least 2 tafsirs must be compared
- Students must make copies of their reports for all students in the class
- Only classical (pre-modern) tafsirs can be used in weeks 2-7, after that, modern and contemporary tafsirs can be used.

Each submission is worth 7 points: 2 points for neatness, grammar, spelling and writing; 5 points for substance.

A final paper/project is worth 30 points. The final paper must be approximately 10 pages in length. All papers must be run through a grammar and spell-check program or read by the writing tutor if necessary before submission. This is not a research paper but can be a review article (eg, an extended review of a book/books related to the topic), a biography of a scholar of tafsir, etc. Possible projects include: a weekend-Islamic school series of lessons on tafsir, a comparison of Qur’an translations, etc.

Tentative Schedule:

  1. Introduction: Rotraud Wielandt, “Exegesis of the Qur’ān: Early Modern and Contemporary,” in The Encyclopedia of the Qur’ān, v. 2, 124-142.
  2. God: Existence and Attributes
  3. Revelation and Prophecy
  4. Jesus, Mary and Muhammad
  5. Sin (7:100-101; 53:29-32)
  6. Trials and Suffering
  7. Heaven and Hell
  8. Religious Pluralism; Religious Freedom (2:62; 2:112; 2:256; 4:94)
  9. War and Peace
  10. Men and Women
  11. Free will and Destiny (3:154-156)
  12. Human Nature and Responsibility (2:29-33)
  13. Students can choose any topic this week


Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500