The Shi‘i Approach to the Interpretation of the Qur’an
Although the emergence of formal written tafsir in the history of Shi‘i interpretation of the Qur’an can be dated almost to the third and fourth centuries AH (10-11th CE), there is enough evidence to suggest that the first generation of Shi‘a traditionist (muhaddith) exegetes belonged to the first century AH. Since the time of Imam Ali (A.S), and for about three centuries thereafter Shi‘a traditionists, jurists and theologians used to refer directly or indirectly to their Imams. During the time of the Prophet, the exegesis of the Qur’an was embarked upon through his explanations of verses of the Qur’an. This was followed by the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S). At the time of Imam Ali, some of his companions such as his cousin and disciple, Ibn ‘Abbas, used to ask him occasionally about the interpretation of a verse or verses of the Qur’an.