Abstract and Keywords
The Ismāʿīlīs did not cultivate the science of tafsīr. That is to say that, unlike Sunni Muslims and the Shīʿī branches of the Zaydīs and Imāmīs (Twelvers), they did not produce Qur’anic commentaries wherein the text of the Scripture was explicated or interpreted verse by verse and chapter by chapter, from beginning to end. Ismāʿīlī literature is, however, very rich in taʾwīl (the esoteric and allegorical interpretation) of Qur’anic verses. Indeed, Ismāʿīlīs assiduously cultivated the discipline of taʾwīl, elaborated hermeneutical principles, and applied them systematically not only to certain key verses but also to a number of short and long chapters of the Qur’an and the stories of ancient prophets. It is no exaggeration to state that all books of Ismāʿīlī doctrine, including works on cosmology and the ultimate philosophical system called al-ḥaqāʾiq (the true reality of being; based on Neoplatonism and Neopythagoreanism), are replete with Qurʾānic citations as proof-texts, with appropriate taʾwīl to justify their doctrines.
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