Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (10 January 2021) | Viewed by 46443

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Università di Napoli L’Orientale, 80121 Napoli, Italy
Interests: Islamic studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Reading and interpreting the Qur’an has always been fundamental in Islamic religious discourse, both for Muslims believers and for scholars of Islam. In recent decades, this has become even more true. For Muslims, recent sensibilities and trends have brought the Qur’an even more to the centre of Islamic discourse. For scholarly research, discoveries of manuscripts, new editions, and translations, but above all new approaches, have produced and are producing a growing number of works on the Qur’anic text. All of these studies engaged the Qur’anic contents and form, displaying differing and sometimes contrasting attitudes. All of this is taking place in the Muslim world and among Muslims, but also in Western lands, where a growing number of Muslims are contributing to the scientific debate, and to defining a new significance of the Qur’an as a text diffused all over the world.

To deal with this, scholars who have recently contributed or are interested in contributing to the debate on the Qur’an are invited to offer further reflection. Along with this, they are invited to go a step further and consider, along with their scholarship and vision, the perspective of the past approaches, and the impact of such interpretations in the field and in the contemporary world. The scope of the volume as a whole will be to highlight the variety of approaches and answers that scholars, Muslim and non-Muslim, give questions, such as, to name a few examples: how could/should we approach the Qur’an in religious studies today and in the decades to come? What is the significance of interpretating the Qur’an for Muslims all over the world and in religious studies? How could/should a (new) interpretation of the Qur’an be functional to the developments of future societies?

Prof. Dr. Roberto Tottoli
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • religious texts
  • Islam
  • Qur’an
  • exegesis

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Editorial

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5 pages, 175 KiB  
Editorial
Introduction to the Special Issue “Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century”
by Roberto Tottoli
Religions 2022, 13(2), 134; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13020134 - 30 Jan 2022
Viewed by 1846
Abstract
The number of books and articles on the Qur’an has become significant in recent decades [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)

Research

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8 pages, 1181 KiB  
Article
Why Did the Egyptian Noblewomen Cut Their Hands? Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥīʾs Interpretation of Qurʾān 12:31
by Mustansir Mir
Religions 2021, 12(8), 619; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080619 - 9 Aug 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3945
Abstract
Sūra 12 of the Qurʾān, Joseph, tells the story of the prophet Joseph. He is bought as a slave by an Egyptian high official, whose wife—tradition calls her Zulaykhā—makes an unsuccessful attempt to seduce him, and is ridiculed by her peers for [...] Read more.
Sūra 12 of the Qurʾān, Joseph, tells the story of the prophet Joseph. He is bought as a slave by an Egyptian high official, whose wife—tradition calls her Zulaykhā—makes an unsuccessful attempt to seduce him, and is ridiculed by her peers for her failure to do so. She invites them to a banquet, hands them knives, and presents Joseph before them. Upon seeing him, the women cut their hands with the knives they are holding (Qurʾān 12:31). According to the generally accepted exegetical view, they do so because they were so awestruck by Joseph’s beauty that they did not know what they were doing and accidentally cut their hands while thinking that they were cutting some food item, like fruit. Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī differs from this view. He argues that the women wished to succeed where Zulaykhā had failed, and, unable to persuade Joseph in the beginning, they threatened to kill themselves if Joseph would not listen to them, and, to convince Joseph that they were serious in carrying out the threat, they deliberately cut their hands with knives. This article gives details of Iṣlāḥīʾs interpretation of the Qurʾānic verse in question and discusses how that interpretation calls for re-evaluating some crucial aspects of the Qurʾānic story of Joseph. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)
35 pages, 13422 KiB  
Article
Beyond Reception History: The Qur’anic Intervention into the Late Antique Discourse about the Origin of Evil
by Angelika Neuwirth and Dirk Hartwig
Religions 2021, 12(8), 606; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080606 - 4 Aug 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3650
Abstract
The article advocates a new approach to the Qur’an: To look at the text as a transcript of the earliest community’s intervention into major debates of its time. Rather than earlier textual traditions (“reception history”), particular burning theological questions that were en vogue [...] Read more.
The article advocates a new approach to the Qur’an: To look at the text as a transcript of the earliest community’s intervention into major debates of its time. Rather than earlier textual traditions (“reception history”), particular burning theological questions that were en vogue in the epistemic space of Late Antiquity are identified as the essential trigger of particular Qur’anic proclamations. Thus, the new—Late Antique—perception of evil (epistemic troubles experienced in the innermost selves of individuals—which cropped up during the sectarian strife in Middle Mecca) is etiologically explained through the primordial rebellion of Diabolos/Iblīs. This figure is portrayed in the Qur’an as a daring “dissenter in heaven”—a dignity that he had proven in various Biblical contexts (Book of Job, Gospels, etc.) before. His main characteristic is his eloquence and logical reasoning, which has earned him the epithet of the “inventor of qiyās/syllogism” in later Islamic tradition. His Qur’anic development is projected against the backdrop of rabbinic, patristic, and poetic exegeses, which together attest the vitality of a most diversified “epistemic space of Late Antiquity”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)
17 pages, 338 KiB  
Article
Concepts and Methods in the Study of the Qur’ān
by Guillaume Dye
Religions 2021, 12(8), 599; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080599 - 3 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 4540
Abstract
This paper addresses methodological issues in Qur’anic studies. At first, it intends to explain, through historiographical analysis, why methods proved fruitful in biblical and New Testament studies, such as form criticism and redaction criticism, have been disregarded in Qur’anic studies; secondly, it vindicates [...] Read more.
This paper addresses methodological issues in Qur’anic studies. At first, it intends to explain, through historiographical analysis, why methods proved fruitful in biblical and New Testament studies, such as form criticism and redaction criticism, have been disregarded in Qur’anic studies; secondly, it vindicates the application of such methods to the Qur’anic corpus; thirdly, it tries to exemplify the relevance of redaction criticism through examples. Two main issues are then discussed: the best way to account for the “synoptic problem” (the presence, in the Qur’ān, of variant parallel narratives), through an examination of some aspects of the Adam-Iblīs narratives (more precisely the composition of Q 2:30–38 and the nature of the relations between Q 38:71–85 and Q 15:26–43); and the beginning of Q 55. Two main conclusions are reached: first, the later versions of a parallel story are, in the examples discussed here, rewritings of earlier stories (namely, re-compositions based on a written version); second, sura 55 features the intervention of different authors, with two different profiles. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)
12 pages, 254 KiB  
Article
“The Human Was Created Out of Haste.” On Prophecy and the Problem of Human Nature in the Qur’an
by Gabriel Said Reynolds
Religions 2021, 12(8), 589; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080589 - 31 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3033
Abstract
In this article it is argued that the Qur’an’s doctrine of divine mercy is best understood in light of its pessimistic anthropology, an aspect of the text that is often underappreciated. The so-called “primordial covenant” verse (Q 7:172) of the Qur’an holds humans [...] Read more.
In this article it is argued that the Qur’an’s doctrine of divine mercy is best understood in light of its pessimistic anthropology, an aspect of the text that is often underappreciated. The so-called “primordial covenant” verse (Q 7:172) of the Qur’an holds humans responsible for submission to God. The Qur’anic language on “signs” in the natural world suggests that humans should recognize God (and be grateful to Him) by reflection on nature alone. Yet, according to the Qur’an they do not. The Qur’an refers frequently to humans as “ungrateful” and “hasty”. It also makes divine punishments a regular element of human history, suggesting that rebellion is endemic to human nature. It is, I argue, precisely the rebelliousness of humans that makes God’s initiative in sending prophets merciful. The ministry of prophets in the Qur’an is an unmerited manifestation of divine compassion for a sinful humanity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)
20 pages, 4026 KiB  
Article
The Cosmopolitan World of the Quran and Late Antique Humanism
by Todd Lawson
Religions 2021, 12(8), 562; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080562 - 21 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2142
Abstract
The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate how two distinct but deeply related literary genres, which had become especially prominent in the 7th century Nile-to-Oxus region, have left an enduring impression on the form and contents of the Quran. By saying this, [...] Read more.
The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate how two distinct but deeply related literary genres, which had become especially prominent in the 7th century Nile-to-Oxus region, have left an enduring impression on the form and contents of the Quran. By saying this, it is not intended to suggest that the Quran was “influenced” by this or that extraneous or extra-textual phenomenon. Rather, it is suggested that, along the lines of the Quran’s own theory of revelation, it speaks through Muḥammad, “the language of his people” (Q14:4). Stated another away, the Quran employs themes and structures from both epic and apocalypse that would have been familiar to its audience in order to reveal and make clear its most cherished sacred truths, among which are: the Oneness of God, the Oneness of Religion and the Oneness of Humanity. Epic and apocalypse, then, emerge as features of the cultural and imaginative language of the intended audience of the Quran, just as Arabic is its “linguistic” language. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)
34 pages, 523 KiB  
Article
Speech Genres and Interpretation of the Qur’an
by Devin J. Stewart
Religions 2021, 12(7), 529; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070529 - 13 Jul 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3451
Abstract
This essay provides an overview of the investigation of genres in Qur’anic studies to date and argues for the utility of the theory of speech genres for the interpretation of the Qur’an generally. Drawing on this approach, it addresses several Qur’anic passages whose [...] Read more.
This essay provides an overview of the investigation of genres in Qur’anic studies to date and argues for the utility of the theory of speech genres for the interpretation of the Qur’an generally. Drawing on this approach, it addresses several Qur’anic passages whose interpretation has been a matter of debate. Attention to the generic conventions of the various types of speech that are contained in Islam’s sacred text may help resolve a number of long-standing and current interpretive debates. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)
11 pages, 394 KiB  
Article
Contextualist Approaches and the Interpretation of the Qur’ān
by Abdullah Saeed and Ali Akbar
Religions 2021, 12(7), 527; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070527 - 13 Jul 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3630
Abstract
When it comes to the interpretation of ethico-legal texts in the Qur’ān, there is usually a high degree of emphasis on literalism and textualism but not enough focus on contextualization. This is true for both the classical period and the modern period. This [...] Read more.
When it comes to the interpretation of ethico-legal texts in the Qur’ān, there is usually a high degree of emphasis on literalism and textualism but not enough focus on contextualization. This is true for both the classical period and the modern period. This article points to the contextual nature of interpretation and how the contextualist approach to interpreting the Qur’ān can enable Muslims to follow its ethical teachings in accordance with contemporary needs and circumstances, without sacrificing fundamental Qur’ānic values. In order to do so, the article refers to Qur’ānic passages related to freedom of religion and the laws of punishment, and explores how a contextualist approach to interpreting such passages may yield results different from those of a textualist or literalist approach. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)
11 pages, 196 KiB  
Article
Reflections on Islamic Feminist Exegesis of the Qur’an
by amina wadud
Religions 2021, 12(7), 497; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070497 - 3 Jul 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 5960
Abstract
The chapter highlights the importance of lived realities to the hermeneutics of the Qur’an and questions the classical interpretation of the Qur’an, evidencing that the dominant and prolific model of centering analysis of the sacred text and religious practices around men and men’s [...] Read more.
The chapter highlights the importance of lived realities to the hermeneutics of the Qur’an and questions the classical interpretation of the Qur’an, evidencing that the dominant and prolific model of centering analysis of the sacred text and religious practices around men and men’s experience. Discussing attitudes and specific Qur’an passages, neutral terminology in relation to creation and cosmology, the story of Lot/Lut, and themes such as the question of Shari‘ah, the paper offers a personal reflection on gender and Qur’anic or Islamic interpretative possibilities. The author also explains how she came to a theological perspective on the equality of gender and gender identity over the last two decades, and gives specific examples of a unique Qur’anic analysis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)
15 pages, 303 KiB  
Article
Who Are Those in Authority? Early Muslim Exegesis of the Qur’anic Ulū’l-Amr
by Mun’im Sirry
Religions 2021, 12(7), 483; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070483 - 29 Jun 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 4542
Abstract
The term ulū’l-amr (those in authority) is central to the Muslim understanding of leadership, although it has been understood differently by different scholars. The term appears twice in the Qur’an, namely in verses 59 and 83 of chapter 4 (sūrat al-Nisā’), which serve [...] Read more.
The term ulū’l-amr (those in authority) is central to the Muslim understanding of leadership, although it has been understood differently by different scholars. The term appears twice in the Qur’an, namely in verses 59 and 83 of chapter 4 (sūrat al-Nisā’), which serve as the cornerstone and starting point of the entire religious, social, and political structure of Islam. This article carefully examines early Muslim exegesis of the Qur’anic ulū’l-amr and how the two verses have become the locus classicus of intra-Muslim polemics. The main point of this article is to trace the early development of the meaning of ulū’l-amr in the exegetical works (tafsīr) of both Sunni and Shi‘i Qur’an commentators during the first 600 years of Islamic history. It will be argued that it is chiefly in the tafsīr tradition that the meaning and identity of ulū’l-amr is negotiated, promoted, and contested. The diversity of Muslim interpretations and the different trajectories of Sunni and Shi‘i exegesis, as well as the process of exegetical systematization, are highlighted. While Sunni exegetes seem to engage with one another internally, Shi‘i commentators tend to polemicize Sunni exegesis to uphold their version of ulū’l-amr as infallible imams (leaders). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)

Other

Jump to: Editorial, Research

4 pages, 173 KiB  
Opinion
Reflections on Certain Principles That May Guide a New Commentary (Tafsir) of the Qur’an
by Tarif Khalidi
Religions 2022, 13(1), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010032 - 30 Dec 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1212
Abstract
The author starts from his experience as a translator of the Qur’an to argue on the need for a new commentary. The aim of such a new approach would be to convey a vision of Islam more in tune with Islamic history. Further, [...] Read more.
The author starts from his experience as a translator of the Qur’an to argue on the need for a new commentary. The aim of such a new approach would be to convey a vision of Islam more in tune with Islamic history. Further, this is also needed in relation to the substantial Muslim communities living outside of the Muslim world. Antecedents are important in this and especially those coming from the so-called literary moment in the 20th-century Qur’an commentary tradition. A new commentary should be conducted by a committee. Additionally, the second part of the paper explores this possibility and what this committee should take care of in this direction, such as gender-consciousness or environment questions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)
21 pages, 352 KiB  
Essay
The Shi’is and the Qur’an: Between Apocalypse, Civil Wars, and Empire
by Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi
Religions 2022, 13(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010001 - 21 Dec 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 5003
Abstract
The study is dedicated to the complex relationship between the Alides (supporters of ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib and their descendants, later called the Shi’is) and the Qur’an, especially in the early times of Islam. Several points are examined in order to put these [...] Read more.
The study is dedicated to the complex relationship between the Alides (supporters of ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib and their descendants, later called the Shi’is) and the Qur’an, especially in the early times of Islam. Several points are examined in order to put these relations into perspective. First of all, it is important to remember that the Quranic corpus was elaborated in the atmosphere of the civil wars that marked the birth and the first developments of Islam. These wars seem to have played a major role in the elaboration of the official version of the Quran, which the Alides would have considered a falsified and hardly understandable version of the Revelation. The problem of falsification (tarīf) as well as the belief in the existence of a hidden meaning of the Quran led to the Shi’i doctrine on the necessity for interpretation (tafsīr, ta’wīl) in order to make the Sacred Text intelligible. It is also important to question the reasons for the civil wars between the faithful of Muḥammad. According to the Quran and the Hadith, Muḥammad came to announce the end of the world. He therefore also announced the coming of the Messiah, the Saviour of the end times. Now, according to some sources, ‘Alī is this Saviour. The problem is that after the death of Muḥammad, according to Shi’is, the opponents of ‘Alī took power. With the conquests and the birth of the Arab empire, the rewriting of history and the creation of a new collective memory seem to have become necessary in order to marginalise ‘Alī, among other reasons, and consolidate the caliphal power. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Re-Interpreting the Qur’an in the 21st Century)
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