Muslim Qur’anic Interpretation Today - Media, Genealogies and Interpretive Communities - Johanna Pink
Johanna Pink [+]
University of Freiburg
This book takes a comprehensive look at the ways in which Muslims interpret the Qurʾān today and at the themes and structural conditions that shape their engagement with their sacred scripture. It has a distinct focus on the present and the very recent past; the case studies it examines all date from the 2000s and 2010s. At the same time, it treats them as part of an ongoing discursive tradition. That discursive tradition is neither uniform nor unchanging. It undergoes transformations, shifts and possibly even ruptures, but it also retains a core set of symbols and resources. The question, then, is what meaning and what function such symbols and resources assume for contemporary Muslims who read and interpret their sacred scripture. Contemporary Muslim Qurʾān interpretations include boldly innovative approaches as well as staunchly traditional ones. They take place in all types of media and target a wide variety of audiences. Some exegetes favour feminist readings of the Qurʾān over the entire pre-modern exegetical tradition, others consider the 14th-century Qurʾānic commentary by Ibn Kathīr (d. 1373) the most authoritative exegetical work to date. Some are religious scholars by training, others are engineers or physicians, and others again are social activists. Some publish their Qurʾān interpretation in fifteen-volume box sets, others as a series of sermons on YouTube, and some meet to personally discuss the Qurʾān. They do so in many different languages, some with the ability to read the Qurʾān in Arabic, others without it. The book aims at making sense of these diverse phenomena through a combination of two approaches that are reflected in its bipartite structure. The first part gives an overview of the most important trends and conditions that shape contemporary Muslim approaches to the Qurʾān, including their historical background. It looks at themes, aims, sources, and methods of contemporary exegesis; the media it takes place in; the larger religious discourses it is part of; and the languages, regional, and global conditions it is embedded in. The chapters take into account its authors, audiences, methods, and intentions. They provide both an introductory survey of and a fresh perspective on the field of contemporary Muslim Qurʾān interpretation. The second part presents samples from recent exegetical works that are arranged in larger thematic units. Each sample is followed by a commentary as well as information on the source and its author. The author contextualises the text samples and uses them to highlight core themes and features of contemporary exegetical debates. From a Saudi preacher to a Turkish university theologian, from an Indonesian educational comic book to a thoughtful German blog, from an American apologetic website to a respected Moroccan philosopher, from a Turkish Alevi rhyming translation to feminist exegetes struggling over gender hierarchies in the Qurʾān, the variety and interest of the text samples help to bring the topic to life. Taken together, the two parts of the book can be read as a spotlight on Muslim Qurʾān interpretation in a specific period of time, a time of great challenges and tremendous social transformations, some of them obvious and some of them rarely noted. The book will be of interest to students and academics in Islamic Studies, but the avoidance of jargon and the background explanations make it equally accessible to readers from other disciplines.