In tafsir, zahir (Arabic: ظاهر) literal meaning refers to that which is external and manifest. The Quran also has a exoteric or apparent meaning known as zahiri meaning. The actions of an individual are the Zahir and the intention within the heart is the Batin. In Sufism, batin is the world of souls whereas zahir is the world of bodies. If one excels in his batin while living in zahir, that is when he is able to elevate spiritually. Sufi orders believe in the purification of the batin through their spiritual guide to assure a zahir which follows Shariat.
It is also the underlying principle of the Ẓāhiriyya, a school of thought in Islamic jurisprudence and Aqida known for its insistence on sticking to the manifest (zahir) or apparent meaning of expressions in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Ismaili Muslims adhere to the Sufi principle of balance between the Zahir and the spirit or the intellect that the zahir represents. The opposite of zahir is batin, or the underlying, esoteric meaning of the Quran, which can only be interpreted by a figure of esoteric knowledge. For Shi'a Muslims, the Imam of the Time is alone capable in understanding the esoteric meaning.