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Toward a Tanweeri Hermeneutics of the Qur'an June 2009

Toward a Tanweeri Hermeneutics of the Qur'an June 2009

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Published by bassam.madany9541
An Arab intellectual is extremely concerned about the lack of development in the Arab-Muslim world. He attributes this phenomenon to the rigid method of interpreting the Qur'an, i.e. the Hermeneutics of the Sacred Text of Islam. He calls for a new methodology that would allow Muslims to cope with the challenges of moddernity
An Arab intellectual is extremely concerned about the lack of development in the Arab-Muslim world. He attributes this phenomenon to the rigid method of interpreting the Qur'an, i.e. the Hermeneutics of the Sacred Text of Islam. He calls for a new methodology that would allow Muslims to cope with the challenges of moddernity

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Published by: bassam.madany9541 on Jul 01, 2009
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05/11/2014

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Toward a Tanweeri (Enlightened)Hermeneutics of the Qur’an
By Rev. Bassam M. Madany
Muslims have been grappling with the problem of 
tahdith
(modernization) and
tajdid 
(renewal) for around two centuries. Several attempts have been made to reform Islam, beginning with
 Jamal al-Din al-Afghani 
(1838-1897.) Some reformers have called for areinterpretation of the Qur’an so that its harsh parts, such as
 Ayat al-Sayf 
(the SwordVerses) are no longer considered normative for the present.During the decades of the 1970s and 1980s,
 Dar al-Shurook Publishing House
(Beirut& Cairo) published four books by the Egyptian reformist scholar,
 Dr. Zaki Naguib Mahmoud 
that dealt with the modernization of the Arab-Islamic Culture:
“Tajdid al-Fikr al-‘Arabi,” 
(The Renewal of the Arab Mind,)
“Fi Tahdith al-Thaqafa al-‘Arabiyya,” 
(The Modernization of Arab Culture,)
“Al-Ma’qool wa-Lama’qool fi Tirathina al-Fikri” 
(The Rational and the Irrational in our Cultural Heritage,) and
“Ru’ya Islamiyya” 
(AnIslamic Vision.)Dr. Mahmoud suggested a hermeneutical principle in line with the 9
th
century
 Mu’tazilites
of Baghdad who championed a rational approach in the formulation of Islamic doctrines. I critiqued his attempt to reform Islam in these words;
“Dr. Mahmoud summarizes his research by stressing the importance of rejecting theirrational aspect of the heritage. Only the rational outlook must be retained. But often,in his rejection of irrationalism, one gets the strong impression that our author isrejecting supernaturalism! To work for the renewal of a theistic religion byemphasizing only the horizontal relevance of the faith is to bring about a deistic faiththat is something altogether different from Islamic theism.” 
Thanks to the growing use of the Internet among Arab intellectuals, a number of Arabic-language websites are now dedicated to the reformation of Islam, such aswww.kwtanweer.comOn 31 May, 2009 they posted an article with this intriguing title:
“So That Islam Might Not Die” 
ملسا توي  ىح 
 Hatta la Yamutu’l Islam.
The writer showed a great concern about the lack of development in the Islamic world,attributing it to the Muslims’ inability to break from their traditional interpretation of theQur’an. So, in order to cope with the challenges of modernity, he called on Muslims toadopt an enlightened hermeneutics of the Qur’an, a prescription that is actually quiterevolutionary. Still, he did not hesitate to propose it,
for unless such a step is taken,Islam will not survive!
It was this strong conviction that made him choose the shockingtitle for his essay!Here are excerpts translated from our authors essay [emphasis in bold font is mine]:
 
“This is my concluding article in a series that dealt with the subject of development. Toachieve this goal requires an open mind and liberation from those fixed and fanciful positions that offered ready-made solutions to all types of human problems. We mustacknowledge that
traditional Islam, with its totalitarian worldview is standing in theway of progress and development.
The Muslim world is in dire need for the rise anddevelopment of a progressive and non-totalitarian Islam. A genuine and seriousreformation can only happen by adopting a complete separation between
 Allah and  Muhammad;
 
 Allah is an absolute and unchanging Being,
 
while the Prophet is not.
Doubtless, Muhammad was the primary founder of the Umma, but as a human being, heacted within the cultural and political contexts of his days.
Therefore, all the texts whichthe Prophet brought, including the Qur’an, are purely historical texts, and as such,cannot be considered absolutely authentic or accurate.
As I have mentioned in my previous articles, the problem does not reside in a belief inthe existence of God. A person may be a believer and free at the same time. The real problem is that belief in a person or a group of people who act as representatives of theDivine. This type of faith must be rejected before any true reform can take place. For example, Protestant Christianity confesses the divinity of Christ and at the same timedoes not acknowledge any person who acts as His representative on earth. This hasenabled Protestants to worship Christ according to their convictions, while at the sametime leaving earthly matters to be dealt with in a secular fashion. We conclude that aseparation of Religion from Politics is the basic condition, or the
 sine qua non,
for therise of a progressive and non-totalitarian religion.“To sum up my thesis; it would be difficult and unthinkable for Muslims to reject or abandon their religion in order to achieve progress and development. The best solutionfor their predicament is to strip Islam of all its totalitarian impulses.It is refreshing to read articles by Muslim intellectuals who are very eager to see Islamdelivered from the shackles of its slavish attachment to those rigid and irrational elementsof their religious heritage. The only way for Arab nations to meet the challenges of thetwenty-first century is to break loose from their traditional Qur’anic hermeneutics.But what struck me the most about our author’s essay was his view of the Qur’an itself.As he put it,
“Therefore, all the texts which the Prophet brought, including the Qur’an,are purely historical texts, and as such, cannot be considered absolutely authentic or accurate.” 
For anyone who is familiar with Arabic, and the history of Islamic theology, these wordssound extremely radical, even revolutionary. Notice how he formulated his view of theQur’an, not as a book that descended upon Muhammad, but as a book that the Prophet brought, and which is on par with his other sacred texts of Islam the Hadiths! The writer has gone beyond the views of the
 Mu’tazilites
of 9
th
century Baghdad who denied theeternal nature of the Qur’an, and stressed its historical nature. But what he suggested is ahermeneutic that would allow for a “higher criticism of the Qur’an, and the developmentof a kinder and more compassionate Islam!2

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