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1. Orientations
a. Figures
2. Koran
3. Theology
4. Concept of divine
5. Sharia
6. Muhammad
7. Cult and Festivals
8. Mecca
9. Cultic personalities
10. Caliph
11. Structures
12. Popular religion
13. Others
14. Calendar

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Islam / Theology /
Arabic: tafsīr

Commentary or explanation used both with jurisprudence and theology. The term is mainly used for Islam, in which the commentaries on the Koran are in focus. Tafsir is taught as an independent field of study at madrasas and in universities.
Over time, tafsir came to be used for certain forms of commentaries, dealing with external philological exegesis, distinguished from ta'wil, which mainly sought the inner meaning of the texts.
Works of tafsir often explains the Koran phrase by phrase, often even word by word. This is the main method of tafsirs, known as ¢ilm at-tafsir. Early tafsirs had explanations deriving from Christian and Jewish sources.
Tafsirs are important to the understanding of the Koran as this has gives few elements of aid to its readers, in terms of historical sequence of the material. Also, tafsirs could facilitate a better understanding of texts that could be ambiguous. Tafsirs also had to handle of the most immediate sources of textual misunderstanding concerning the Koran; script could be read in different manners, f.x. did the very first version of Koranic text lack punctuation.
Tafsir appears to be one of the very oldest text interpretation techniques of Islam, emerging already in the 7th century, but the famous tafsirs, that have been instrumental in formulating mainstream understandings of Islam, cover the period from around 900 until late 13th century.
Main tafsirs have been written and edited by At-Tabari, Az-Zamakhshari, Fakhr ar-Razi, Al-Baidawi and As-Suyuti. Among these, the one of Al-Baidawi is by Sunnis considered the best and most accurate.
Even in modern times, tafsirs are being produced. Muslim modernists, aiming at interpreting Islam according to new patterns, have used tafsirs as central tools.
A side type of tafsir is tafsir bi ra-ra'y, commentary by personal understanding, used for textual elements for which there is no immediate single understanding. This type of tafsir has always existed and is still in use, although not always named tafsir bi ra-ra'y. One example of this in modern times, is the misunderstanding that the Koran states that women should hide their hair, motivating the Islamist garment of hijab.

By Tore Kjeilen