The Levels of Exegesis

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Yahya at-Tadifi al-Hanbali (r.a.) wrote, in his Qala’id al-Jawahir, that once, Imam ibn al-Jawzi al-Hanbali (r.a.) attended a gathering of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.) with one of his friends.  Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir (q.s.) immediately noticed Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) because he was already a renowned scholar.  The Ghawts al-A’azham (q.s.) began to delve deeper into the various exegeses of a particular verse of the Qur’an so that Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) would understand the role of taswawwuf in diving into the depths of meanings of the Qur’an.

So, a verse was recited, and Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir (q.s.) gave one explanation to it.  Imam ibn al-Jawzi’s (r.a.) companion asked him, “Do you know this tafsir?”

He replied, “Yes, this is a famous tafsir of the verse.”

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir (q.s.) gave a second tafsir, and then a third, and then a fourth, and so forth until there were eleven levels of understanding a verse, and each time, when his companion asked him, Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) confirmed that he knew it.

And then Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir (q.s.) gave a twelfth tafsir; Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) told his companion before being asked, that he did not know this.  And Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir (q.s.) continued, giving another level of exegesis after another, until he had given forty explanations of a single verse.  Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) was so impacted, they say he stood up in hal of ecstasy, and exclaimed, “Laa illah illa Allah Muhammadur Rasulullah,” and ripped his clothes; Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) finally understood the true meaning of “faqir.”


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