By Femi Abbas
One of the undisputable major instruments of Tafsir is literacy. The more literate the Muslims are, in the relevant language, the more they are likely to understand the Qur’an through Tafsir. And, no one who thoroughly understands Tafsir will be ignorant of Islam or even life.
Muslims who are deeply schooled through the Western system of education will discover that virtually all the Sciences, Social Sciences, Commerce and arts, originated from the study of Tafsir. Even some scientific terminologies and invention of figure zero (0), which engendered digital system in mathematics and paved way for technology, have confirmed this. It therefore takes real scholars of today, not just reciters of the Qur’an or mere speakers of Arabic language, to become exponents of the Qur’an through Tafsir. This is a rare factor that is conspicuously missing in Nigeria at present.
There is a sharp difference between translating the context of the Qur’an into another language and interpreting it in expository manner. The one is shallow. The other is deep. Ordinarily, Tafsir is not supposed to be an annual Ramadan affair. Rather, it should be a daily practice for all scholars who are ardent in it.
Although Tafsir gains more popularity in the month of Ramadan because every true Muslim wants to get closer to Allah through familiarization with the Qur’an, but Tafsir of the Qur’an is not limited to that sacred month alone and it should not be seen as such.
Going by the limit of their knowledge and the extent of their unwillingness to learn more, only a few Muslim scholars in Nigeria are qualified to tutor the populace in Tafsir. Most of the so-called Nigerian Muslim clerics (Alfas) have turned Tafsir into an annual commercial jamboree which can fetch them what they regard as Ramadan booty. Their motive of engaging in Tafsir is more pecuniary than spiritual. And, that, in itself, is a problem that needs to be permanently resolved.
What most of those Alfas often dish out in the name of knowledge is mostly hearsay inherited from generation to generation. And, that is why majority of Nigerian Muslim audiences at Tafsir Centres can hardly benefit from what they hear in those Centres.
Tafsir is a special field of discipline meant only for research oriented scholars and students. But unfortunately, it is one area of study which has very few institutions of learning in Nigeria.
Because of this problem, the Qur’an has been translated into very few Nigerian languages so far. And, today, the few copies of vernacular Qur’an in circulation can hardly be found on book shelves even as most of them are virtually out of print. The solution to this problem is for the rich and philanthropic Muslims to rise up and make adequate financial provisions in support of research-based Tafsir. Without that, it may take the Muslim world several centuries to become esoterically familiar with the Qur’an and it’s essence for mankind.