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Chapter 14

The Qurn and modernity

Massimo Campanini, The Quran: Modern Muslim Interpretations , Caroline Higgitt (trans.), London, Routledge, 2010, provides a survey of contemporary popular and academic Muslim writing on the Qurn. John B. Henderson, Scripture, Canon and Commentary: A Comparison of Confucian and

Western Exegesis, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1991, p. 221, provides the
following assessment of the transition in commentaries in modern times: The abandonment or supersession of commentarial forms in the intellectual culture of early-modern times has often gone unremarked. Yet this development is probably of greater significance in the intellectual transition between the medieval and modern worlds than most of the great ideas of leading philosophers and scientists of this same age. For the form of the commentary influenced modes of thought, and did not just provide the format for their expression. The beginnings On Sayyid Amad Khn and the Qurn see Bruce Lawrence, The Quran: A Biography, New York, Grove/Atlantic, 2006, chapter 11. Muammad Abduh On Abduh see Charles C. Adams, Islam and Modernism in Egypt: A Study of the Modern

Reform Movement Inaugurated by Muammad Abduh, London, Oxford University Press,


1933; also H. A. R. Gibb, Modern Trends in Islam, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1947, chapters 2 and 3; Mark J. Sedgwick, Muhammad Abduh, Oxford, Oneworld, 2010. Abduhs main theological work is available in English translation: Muammad Abduh, The

Theology of Unity, Ishaq Musaad and Kenneth Cragg (trans.), London, George Allen and
Unwin, 1966.

Abduh and the Qurn On Abduhs commentary see Jacques Jomier, Le commentaire coranique du Manar:

Tendances modernes de lexgse coranique en gypte, Paris, Maisonneuve, 1954. In


more recent times, Mamd Shaltt, head of al-Azhar University in Cairo from 195863, has continued with this type of moderate modernism in the context of Quranic interpretation; see Kate Zebiri, Mamd Shaltt and Islamic Modernism, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1993, which also provides an excellent overview of Qurn interpretation in the modern context. For some texts of Abduhs interpretation of the Qurn see Helmut Gatje, The Qurn and its

Exegesis: Selected Texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations, Berkeley,
University of California Press, 1976. Stphane A. Dudoignon, Komatsu Hisao and Kosugi Yasushi (eds), Intellectuals in the

Modern Islamic World: Transmission, Transformation, Communication , London, Routledge,


2006, has a number of very useful articles on Abduh as well as on al-Manr and its influence on the Muslim world. Abl-Kalm zd Some of zds work is available in English: Ashfq usain and Ablkalm zd, The

Quintessence of Islam: A Summary of the Commentary of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad on alFateha, the First Chapter of the Quran , Bombay, Asia Publishing House, 1960 (originally
published in 1958 under the title The Spirit of Islam). On zd see I. H. Azad Faruqi, The Tarjuman al-Quran: A Critical Analysis of Mawlana

Abul-Kalam Azads Approach to the Understanding of the Quran , New Delhi, Vikas
Publishing, 1982. Sayyid Qub An excellent presentation of the core ideas of the Brotherhood is found in Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, The Quranic Justification for an Islamic Revolution: The View of Sayyid Qub, The

Middle East Journal, 37 (1983), 1429; also see her Sayyid Qutb: Ideologue of the Islamic
Revival, in John Esposito (ed.), Voices of Resurgent Islam, New York, Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 6798. On the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and Sayyid

Qub see Ana Beln Soage, asan al-Bann and Sayyid Qub: Continuity or Rupture? The

Muslim World, 99 (2009), 294311.


Sayyid Qub, F ill al-Qurn, Beirut, Dr al-Shurq, 19734, is translated into English: In

the Shade of the Qurn, M. Adil Salahi and Ashur A. Shamis (eds and trans.), London,
MWH London Publishers, 1979 (and many other printings). On the commentary as a whole see Ronald Nettler, A Modern Islamic Confession of Faith and Conception of Religion: Sayyid Qubs Introduction to the Tafsr, F ill al-Qurn, British Journal of Middle Eastern

Studies, 21 (1994), 10214.


Freedom, equality and social justice are, of course, ideals acclaimed by the western liberal, democratic tradition but Qub emphasizes the absolute sovereignty of God within a truly Islamic society; see Leonard Binder, Islamic Liberalism: A Critique of Development

Ideologies, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1988, chapter 5.


William E. Shepard, Sayyid Qutbs Doctrine of Jhiliyya, International Journal of Middle

East Studies, 35 (2003), 52145, provides a thorough and compelling analysis of Sayyid
Qub on the concept of what is outside Islam. Also see Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam:

Medieval Theology and Modern Politics, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1985,
chapter 2. On Qubs use of the prophet stories in the Qurn to illustrate modern times see A. H. Johns, Let my People Go! Sayyid Qutb and the Vocation of Moses, Islam and Christian

Muslim Relations, 1 (1990), 14370. Such an interpretation displays Qubs skills as an


exegete at their finest. For Qubs overall literary perspective see Issa J. Boullata, Sayyid Qubs Literary Appreciation of the Qurn, in Issa J. Boullata (ed.), Literary Structures of

Religious Meaning in the Qurn , Richmond, Curzon, 2000, pp. 35471.


anw Jawhar On Jawhar see J. Jomier, Le Cheikh Tantawi Jawhari (18621940) et son commentaire du Coran, Mlanges de lInstitut dominicain dtudes orientales du Caire , 5 (1958), 11574, and F. de Jong, The Works of anw Jawhar (18621940): Some Bibliographical and Biographical Notes, Bibliotheca Orientalis, 34 (1977), 15361.

On the general topic of science in the Qurn see Ahmad Dallal, Science and the Qurn, in Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), Encyclopaedia of the Qurn, Leiden, E. J. Brill, 2005, volume 4, pp. 54058, for an excellent overview and comparison of classical and modern approaches to this question; this is more fully developed in his Islam, Science, and the

Challenge of History, New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2010, especially chapter
4. There are many examples of books in English that look to the Qurn for scientific insights; see, for example, Hafiz Ghulam Sarwar, Philosophy of the Quran, Lahore, Muammad Ashraf, 1938. On arguments against scientific interpretations see Issa J. Boullata, Modern Qurn Exegesis: A Study of Bint al-Shis Method, The Muslim World, 64 (1974), 10313; J. Jomier, Lexgse scientifique du Coran daprs le Cheikh Amin al-Khouli, Mlanges de

lInstitut dominicain dtudes orientales du Caire, 4 (1957), 26980; Nidhal Guessoum, The
Quran, Science, and the (Related) Contemporary Muslim Discourse, Zygon, 43 (2008), 41131.

Tafsr in other parts of the Islamic world


On Ibn Bdis see Ali Merad, Ibn Badis: Commentateur du Coran, Paris, Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1971. For abab see his The Quran in Islam: Its Impact and Influence on

the Life of Muslims, Assadullah ad-Dhaakir Yate (trans.), London, Zahra Publications, 1987;
also S. H. Nasr, H. Dabashi and S. Vali Reza Nasr (eds), Shiism: Doctrines, Thought and

Spirituality, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1988, chapter 3, on abab and
another contemporary Iranian thinker, Ayatollah Murta Muahhar. For Indonesia and Malaysia see A. H. Johns, Quranic Exegesis in the Malay World: In Search of a Profile, in Andrew Rippin (ed.), Approaches to the History of the Interpretation

of the Qurn, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988, pp. 25787. For contemporary, printed
tafsrs see Howard M. Federspiel, An Introduction to Quranic Commentaries in Contemporary Southeast Asia, The Muslim World, 81 (1991), 14961, and idem, Popular

Indonesian Literature of the Qurn, Ithaca, NY, Modern Indonesia Project, 1994.
Types of critical approach These three Quranic passages are taken from the translation of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy

Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Beirut, Dar al-Arabia, 1968 (but many prints
exist); this translation is accompanied by an extensive commentary in the footnotes which exhibit Modernist tendencies (especially in the desire to spiritualize various aspects) which

are also reflected in the translation itself although modern Saudi reprints of the work have removed those elements. For an overview of modern approaches to the Qurn (with a classification of them into six types) see Erik Ohlander, Modern Quranic Hermeneutics,

Religion Compass, 3 (2009), 62036.


The first example On the visions of the afterlife see Jane Idelman Smith and Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, The

Islamic Understanding of Death and Resurrection , Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002
(originally published in 1981 by The State University of New York Press). On the fair maidens (r) see Maher Jarrar, Houris, in Jane Dammen McAulifffe (ed.),

Encyclopaedia of the Qurn, Leiden, Brill, 20016, volume 2, 4568.


The second example On Muslim interpretations of the birth process in light of these verses see Abul Fadl Mohsin Ebrahim, Biology as the Creation and Stages of Life, in Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.),

Encyclopaedia of the Qurn, Leiden, Brill, 20016, volume 1, pp. 22932.


On cosmology and the theme of the seven heavens see Angelika Neuwirth, Cosmology, in Jane Dammen McAulifffe (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Qurn, Leiden, Brill, 20016, volume 1, pp. 44058. The third example The interpretation of this highly contentious verse has received a great deal of attention; for a good summary of its treatment see Karen Bauer, Traditional Exegeses of Q 4:34,

Comparative Islamic Studies, 2/2 (2006), 12942.


The issues at stake A reflective study on the impact of conservative interpretation of the Qurn on women, illustrating the moral and legal issues that arise, is found in Adis Duderija, Neo-traditional Salafi Quran-Sunnah Hermeneutic and the Construction of a Normative Muslimah Image,

Hawwa, 5 (2007), 289323.

The miraculousness of the Qurn Shabbir Akhtar, A Faith for All Seasons: Islam and Western Modernity, London, Bellew, 1990, chapter 3, argues against the traditional assessment of the Qurn in terms of its forman argument which has no persuasive value among opponents, he saysand prefers the argument from results. He does not use this as a basis for questioning the noncontingent nature of the text (which he maintains) but simply as a more effective argument. Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qurn, 2nd ed., Minneapolis, MN, Bibliotheca Islamica, 1989, argues for a view of revelation that sees the final wording as that of Muammad. Muammad Khalaf Allh and historical specificity On al-Khl see Jacques Jomier, Quelques positions actuelles de lexgse coranique en Egypte rvles par une polemique recente (19471951), Mlanges dInstitut dominicain

dtudes orientales du Caire, 1 (1954), 3972, which discusses the Arabic translation of the
Encyclopaedia of Islam article on tafsr. On Khalaf Allh see see Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Contemporary Islam and the Challenge

of History, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1982, pp. 4653. Also see Yvonne Y.
Haddad, Islamic Awakening in Egypt, Arab Studies Quarterly, 9 (1987), 241, for observations on Khalaf Allhs present political role in presenting the religious plank of a leftist-leaning party in Egypt. Donald Malcolm Reid, Cairo University and the Orientalists,

International Journal of Middle East Studies , 19 (1987), 5175, usefully views Khalaf Allh in
the light of the broader social context of the time. On Nar Ab Zayd see Kilian Blz, Submitting Faith to Judicial Scrutiny through the Family Trial: The Ab Zayd Case, Die Welt des Islams, 37 (1997), 13555, which reviews the judicial aspects of the case. Also see Fauzi M. Najjar, Islamic Fundamentalism and the Intellectuals: The Case of Nar mid Ab Zayd, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 27 (2000), 177200. For some of Nar Ab Zayds ideas see his The Dilemma of the Literary Approach to the Qurn, Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, 23 (2003), 847, and his Rethinking the Qurn: Towards a Humanistic Hermeneutics, Amsterdam, Humanistics University Press, 2004. The main work of Ab Zayd which develops his critique regarding the study of the Qurn is Mafhm al-Na: Dirsa f Ulm al-Qurn (The Concept of the

Text: A Study in the Sciences of the Qurn), Cairo, Markaz al-Thaqf l-Arab, 1990. This is analyzed in Sukidi, Nar mid Ab Zayd and the Quest for a Humanistic Hermeneutics of the Qurn, Die Welt des Islams, 49 (2009), 181211. A contemporary response Shabbir Akhtar has continued to study the Qurn and Islam within a contemporary philosophical context in his works: The Quran and the Secular Mind: A Philosophy of Islam, London, Routledge, 2007; Islam as Political Religion: The Future of an Imperial Faith , London, Routledge, 2010. For a study of modern theology in a broader setting see Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and

Creed in Sunni Islam: The Muslim Brotherhood, Asharism, and Political Sunnism , New York,
Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. The contingent nature of Quranic law The discussion of the nature of the Qurn often leads to discussions of the need for an Islamic reformation; for a critique of the use of this term see the provocative analysis in Paul R. Powers, You Say You Want a Reformation? Parsing the Ubiquitous Rhetoric of an Islamic Reformation, Comparative Islamic Studies, 4 (2008), 3773. Fazlur Rahman On Fazlur Rahman see Earle H. Waugh and Frederick M. Denny (eds), The Shaping of an

American Islamic Discourse: A Memorial to Fazlur Rahman, Atlanta, Scholars Press, 1998.
For his philosophical position (influenced by Gadamer) see Victoria S. Harrison, Hermeneutics, Religious Language and the Quran, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 21 (2010), 20720, which also discusses the work of Mohammed Arkoun. On Fazlur Rahmans view of classical Muslim treatments of the Qurn see his Islam and

Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition , Chicago, University of Chicago Press,


1982, chapter 1.

Pushing the limits A lucid introduction to the work of Mohammed Arkoun may be found in Issa J. Boullata,

Trends and Issues in Contemporary Arab Thought, Albany, State University of New York
Press, 1990, pp. 7985. For Fatima Mernissis views on Islam see especially her classic work, Beyond the Veil: Male-

Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society, revised edition, Bloomington, Indiana


University Press, 1987.

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