Scripture and Exegesis in Early Imami Shiism
Since the publication in 1921 of Ignaz Goldziher's Die Richtungen der islamischen Koransauslegung, which includes a discussion of Imami exegesis, no comprehensive work on this topic has appeared. In the intervening years, important Imami commentaries on the Qur’an have become available, making possible a reappraisal of the subject. The present study aims to contribute to this task, primarily by examining the features and methods of Imami exegesis. Principally, it offers a description and analysis of the major tenets of Imami doctrine, as reflected in the earliest Imami works of exegesis and related sources, up to the Major Occultation of the twelfth Imam in 329/941. These include, among others, the belief in a primordial covenant between God and the Shi‘a, and the superhuman and mystical qualities with which the Imams were graced, such as their God-given, infinite knowledge, their intercession on behalf of their community, their immunity from sin and error, etc. Other tenets relate to the attitude of Imami Shi‘ism to its enemies, e.g. the duty to denigrate and dissociate from them. These and similar ideas are constant motifs in Imami exegesis, and are linked time and again with various Qur’anic verses.
Relying on classical and modern Arabic sources, Sunni and Shi‘i alike, as well as on a wide range of western research, Meir Bar-Asher sheds new light on the Imami methods of exegesis and on the principal Imami doctrines as reflected in the early Imami exegetical corpus.