The Heart of the Man of Light: A Rare Commentary on Qur’an

ALTAFSIR.COM is a completely free online resource to a wealthy collection of authentic Qur’anic Commentaries (tafasir or tafaseer), translations, recitations and essential materials. Developed in 2001, the website is maintained by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Jordan. The Qur’anic text is certified for accuracy by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordon. Here is the testimony of Professor Ahmad Al-Tayyib, Rector Al-Azhar University about the initiative:


“We were delighted by viewing this site wherein we found a sea of knowledge copiously flowing with works of exegesis and the fundamental references and sources in this primary field of the Islamic Sciences and Heritage.”


Recently a translation of the Tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-ʿAẓīm of revered Sufi mystic and scholar Sahl b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Tustarī dated year 896 has been made available on the website. Here is the link:

This translation is the earliest surviving Sufi commentary on the Qur’an. One of the few authenticated works accredited to Tustarī, the commentary is a key to understanding the earlier mystical thought. In addition to providing for mystical insights to almost 1,000 verses of the Qur’an, this translated work includes the following:

  • Numerous references to traditions of the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him);
  • Explanations of the ethical and mystical dimensions of the religious life; and
  • Stories of the prophets, and anecdotes about earlier mystics.

With extensively used explanatory footnotes, the translation provides readers with a unique introduction to the Sufi tradition of Qur’anic interpretation and brings to light the ancient spiritual doctrines catalyst

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to the development of mystic thought to date.

Tustarī reveals in the commentary that:

“Every verse of the Qurʾān has four senses: an outward (ẓāhir) and an inward sense (bāṭin), a limit (ḥadd) and a point of transcendency (maṭlaʿ). The outward sense is the recitation

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and the inward sense is the understanding (fahm) of the verse; the limit defines what is lawful and unlawful, and the point of transcendency is the heart’s place of elevation (ishrāf) [from which it beholds] the intended meaning, as an understanding from God, Mighty and Majestic is He (fiqhan min Allāh ʿazza wa jalla). The outward knowledge [of the Qurʾān] is a knowledge [accessible to the] generality (ʿāmm); whereas the understanding of its inner meanings and its intended meaning is [for] a select few (khāṣṣ)…”

Tustarī is considered as one of the most accredited mystics belonging to the formative period of Islamic mysticism. Hence naturally later Sufis built upon his work and used it as a basis for their spiritual progression and scholarly work. These included big names such as Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī, Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyā al-Suhrawardī and Muḥyī al-Dīn Ibn ʿArabī. Tustarī was himself a disciple of the great Dhul-Nūn Al-Miṣrī and is accredited for emphasizing on the significance of remembrance of God (dhikr), on complete trust in God (tawakkul) and his discourse on the ‘Muḥammadan Light.’

Tustarī’s philosophy is best summarized in the following extract from the introduction of the translation:

In the Tafsīr, Tustarī’s teachings are inevitably dispersed through his interpretations of different Qurʾānic verses. However, when these fragments and gems of wisdom are brought together and col­lated, we find, as Böwering has noted, a ‘mystical synthesis of ideas that is marked by its coherence and specific terminology’, and we can get a clear impression of Tustarī’s ‘mystical world view’. A thread that runs consistently through his teachings is

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the theme of light, which represents

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for him divine guidance at all its levels: the Qurʾān is light; the Prophet, in his primordial existence was light, and continues to be light, radiating the light of faith and guidance to believers and to the world, and it is a light from the light of the essence of

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God that brings the mystic to the highest level of certainty and the ‘attainment’ of God.

Ramadan is around the corner and there can be no better gift for those who crave for deeper meanings of verses to check-out a Qur’ānic commentary that covers esoteric dimensions of the Surah’s – so the translated commentary is highly recommended!

  2 comments for “The Heart of the Man of Light: A Rare Commentary on Qur’an

    August 19, 2011 at 2:04 am

    Thank you for this beautiful piece. May God bless you.

    August 20, 2011 at 1:20 am

    My pleasure Sir. Thanks so much!

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