Abstract: This paper presents the extensive and in-depth research of Professor Andrew Rippin on the function of asbab in Qur'anic exegesis. His intention is to answer some very specific questions such as whether sabab (plural asbab) provide history or strict exegesis. In order to hone in on the subject, he takes a very specific approach. The investigation is limited to the exegesis of the Qur'an written by Sunni authors in Arabic from the early (i.e., pre 6th-century hijri) period primarily (although not exclusively).
Professor Rippin's study places its primary focus upon another exegetical sub-genre, that called asbab al-nuzul, which is devoted to compiling these reports. Each time a report is cited in this literature as a sabab for a verse, the exegetical employment of that sabab has been checked within the tafsir literature. The study was also limited to sura 2 in the Qur'an which presented some 107 verses to be treated.
The reason for this kind of representative selection of verses is to create a result that is statistical in order to see which purposes behind adducing the asbab material predominate and which are subsidiary.
The late Professor Andrew Rippin (1950 - 2016) was a Professor of History and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Victoria, Canada. His publications include The Qur'an and its interpretative tradition and Muslims, their religious beliefs and practices. He was also the editor of the Blackwell Companion to the Qur'an.