The Qur’ānic Sufi Hermeneutics of Shaykh Muṣṭafā’ al-‘Alāwī: A critical study of his Lubāb al- ‘Ilm Fī Sūrah al-Najm
Hendricks, Mogamat Mahgadien
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The main focus of this dissertation is a critical study of the Arabic text, titled: Lubāb al ‘Ilm Fī Sūrah al-Najm (The Kernel of Knowledge in the Chapter of the Star) by Shaykh Ahmad bin Muṣṭafā’ al-‘Alāwī. Due to the lack of research on esoteric commentaries of the Qurʾān in the English language, there is a need to embark upon an in-depth study of such texts. An important work on Shaykh al-‘Alāwī in English is Martin Lings’ A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century. This book is an excellent introduction to the life, works and thought of Shaykh al-‘Alāwī, but it does not deal with a specific text in any detail. Thus, the purpose of this dissertation is to examine closely the above-mentioned text of Shaykh al-‘Alāwī as a sample of his esoteric interpretation of the Qurʾān. For the purpose of this thesis, I shall undertake a translation of his exegesis (tafsīr) on Sūrah al-Najm (the Chapter of the Star). I will include with it explanatory notes and identification of key quotations and sources. This sample from Shaykh al-‘Alāwī’s work will form the basis of my critical analyses. It will also provide a means for comparison with some of his other works, and with Qurʾānic commentaries of the same genre by other Sufi scholars, both classical and modern. In this dissertation, I also seek to offer some answers and proofs concerning the validity of the existence of esoteric tafsīr and why it is needed. I will do this by examining key verses in the Qur’ān and the Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet Muḥammad). The distinction between esoteric and exoteric interpretations of the Qurʾān will also be dealt with in this dissertation. Although the emphasis will be on the esoteric dimension, neither the esoteric nor the exoteric dimension will be treated in a mutually exclusive way. Most Arabic commentaries on the Qurʾān tend towards the exoteric and literal meanings of the text, but the exoteric form also has an inner dimension which Shaykh al-‘Alāwī demonstrates in his commentary on Sūrah al-Najm.