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The science of Tafsir is primarily concerned with the interpretation and elucidation of the text of the Qur'an. Early tafsir began as an oral tradition of Hadith transmission from the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) and subsequently the views and interpretations of his Companions , their Successors or Followers and the Successors' disciples  . Some of the Companions  wrote down the interpretations that they heard from our Prophet (pbuh). They later passed this on both orally and in written form to their Successors  who, in turn, passed this knowledge to those who came later. Written commentaries thus began with the Companions and Successors, who were in closest contact with the Revelation.                                                          

Centering round these Companions, there arose several schools of Tafsir  in the different parts of the  Muslim world. However, by far the most important figure from the point of view of Traditional exegesis was the Companion Abdullah ibn Abbas (RA), whose school was based in Makkah. Due to his close blood relationship with the Prophet (pbuh), he grew up in close proximity to the prophet (pbuh). Several Traditions record the Prophet (pbuh) praying that Ibn Abbas (RA) should be given wisdom and the ability to interpret the Qur'an. After the death of the prophet (pbuh), Ibn Abbas (RA) gathered much information from older Companions, notably Abdullah ibn Mas'oud b. Ghafil b. Habib, Ubaiy b. Ka'b, 'Ali b. Abi Talib (RA), and became a great teacher. His exegetic utterances were collected into volumes with   isnad going back to various of his students and companions. His famous students were 'Ikrima Abu Abd Allah al-Barbari, Abul Hajjaj Mujahid b. Jabr al-Makki , Abu Abdullah Said b. Jubayr b. Hisham al-Asadi , Abu Abdur Rahman Tawus b. Kaisan al-Yamani al-Hiwiari al-Jandi and Abu Muhammad 'Ata' b. Abi Ribah al-Makki al-Qarashi.                                                                                                        

Another Companion important for Traditional exegesis was Ibn Mas'oud (RA). His school was based in Kufa. His famous students included Alqama b. Qais b. Abd Allah b. Malik al-Nakha'i  and Abu Said al-Hasan b. Abi'l Hasan Yasar al-Basr.               



While Ibn Abbas and Ibn Mas'oud (RA) are traditionally thought as the founders of Makkan and Kufan schools, respectively, Ubaiy b. Ka'b b. Qais  (RA) is credited with the foundation of the Madinan school. He, also known as Abul Mundhir, was a Jewish  before embracing Islam, and was one of the scribes of the Qur'anic wahy.  Some of the famous Medinite Followers included Abul 'Aliya Rufai' b. Mihran al-Riyahi, al-Rabi b. Anas al-Bakri al-Basri al-Khurasani, Abu Abdullah. Muhammad Ibn Ka'b  al-Qurazi, and Zaid b. Aslam al-'Adawi al-Madani.                                    


From the brief discussion above, it is clear that the interpretation of the holy quran started from the prophet (pbuh) and then, his companions who, in turn, later passed this knowledge on  both oral and written forms to those who came after them.May Almighty Allah have mercy on them all.                                                   



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