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The Muslim World

Vol. LXXXIII, No. 2

April, 1993

QUR’ANIC HERMENEUTICS:
PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS
The eternal cannot enter time without a time when it enters. Revelation to history cannot occur outside it. A prophet cannot arise except in a generation and a native land, Directives from heaven cannot impinge upon an earthly vacuum.2

1. Introduction
For Muslims the ‘eternal and uncreated Q u r h ’ is the @51i51ha verbaof Allah. It is Allah speaking, not merely to Muhammad in seventh century Arabia, but from all eternity to all humankind. It represents, as Cantwell Smith says, ”the eternal breaking through time; the knowable disclosed; the transcendent entering history and remaining here, available to mortals to handle and to appropriate; the divine become a ~ p a r e n t . ” ~ What is the nature of this speech? How is this intervention by eternity into history to make sense other than within the framework of our terrestrial and historical existence? What constitutes the meaning of the ‘knowable disclosed’? These are some of the questions which Islamic orthodoxy would prefer to regard as closed. However, the elaboration of intellectual modernity in the West, acknowledged or not, has impacted significantly on Islamic scholarship. This impact, albeit much lamented, will increasingly force Muslims who feel compelled to transcend the ‘Islam has all the answers’ apologia to confront what Mohammed Arkoun describes as the “the unthinkable.” To date though, little has been written about the relationship between His Word and history (”His story”) in an historico- or literary critical manner or about the explicit or implicit ideological assumptions underlying their theological orientations; the central concern of contemporary hermeneutics. The most disturbing of those who have consistently challenged Muslim reluctance to confront these connections in our time is undoubtedly Kenneth Cragg. I say ”disturbing’ because he writes with a profundity and compassion that makes it difficult to dismiss him as “just another
This paper was first delivered at a conference on ‘Modern Approaches to the Study of Islam‘ held at the University of Cape Town in August 1991. Kenneth Cragg, The Event ofthe Qur2n: fs/zm a n d h Scr@/ure(London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1971). 112. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, ’The True Meaning of Scripture: An Empirical Historian’s NonReductionist Interpretation of the Qur’iin.’ in /n/p/na/~ona/~ou/na/o/~~dd/e J/udes, 11:4 Eas/e/n (July 1980), 490.

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orientalid” Cragg’s The Event of the Qw’h, to my mind, remains the most profound and moving account of the Qurbn’s engagement with a living and dynamic context. The ideas contained therein and responses to it will probably be central to any attempt at evolving a Qur’anic discipline of hermeneutics.

1.i. Objectives
In this paper, after outlining the context of my own reflections, I propose to give a n overview of the definition of hermeneutics and shall focus on a particular stream within the broader discipline; Reception Hermeneutics. This stream, I believe, has particular relevance in a society perplexed with the meaning of the divine presence as its people engage in a struggle for justice. Furthermore, in the South African context-a context wherein I locate my present thinking-it was not the text that has been the stimulus for the emergence of an interest in hermeneutics: rather, it was the context of scripture and its various function^.^ I also propose to look at two key doctrinal developments.which have shaped Muslim appreciation of the Qur‘an and Quzanic scholarship and thus affected the emergence, or rather non-emergence, of hermeneutics as a Qur’anic discipline. These are the doctrines of the Qurbn’s preexistence /“W&) and its inimitability hj2.. Secondly,I shall examine the way these doctrines relate to some of the key hermeneutical notions as they have developed in Western or biblical scholarship. Thirdly, I will offer a prognosis of the integration of hermeneutics into Qur‘anic or Islamic scholarship. A central thesis of this paper is that the emergence of the Qur’anic text itself as well as the systematic development of Qur’anic doctrines were intrinsically linked to then prevalent socio-political realities. Muslim orthodoxy has long viewed the eternal relevance of the Q u r h as Synonomouswith a Qur’an divested of time and space. However, the history of the Q u r h and of interpretation prove otherwise as anyone concerned with the Q u r h as a functional or contextual scripture soon discovers. In order to relate Qur’anic meaning to the now moment, Muslims are compelled to relate to it from the distance of some historical moment. The Q u r h , as Cragg says, ”could not have been revelatory had it not been also eventful.06”Asitself a total event within history”, he has argued, ”its study, like its quality, must live in hist01-y.”~

Not that this has not been attempted. See, among others, Jamil Qureshi’s’Alongsidedness-In Good Faith?: An Essay on Kenneth Cragg’ in Onentahsm, h/am andh/amii& (Brattleboro.Vermont: Amana Books. 1984) and the more recent book by Shabbir Akhtar. T~e~n8/fmpPa/Jie..~fl h/amiC Z%eo/oggy Li&rahbn (London: Bellewe, 1991). of Farid Esack. ’Contemporary Religious Thought in South Africa and the Emergence of Quzanic Hermeneutical Notions’ in h f m andMus//in-Chriihkn Re/a//li?ns. (December 1991). 1I:2 Cragg, The Event of the Qur2n, 17.

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’Hermeneutics: Islam and the South African Context. ’Three Islamic Strands in the South African Struggle for Justice. lo Farid Esack. compel us to find new ways of describing the way preexisting reality. whatever else it may be. 1. We have intuitively grasped that Allah is on our side and have thus ‘appropriated’ Him.* While this rigidity has served to protect dogma from the encroachments of modernity. may address a world made. structural poverty and the environmental crisis. which confronted many of us with the problem of how some putative objectively conceived divinity might address itself to us.120 THE MUSLIM WORLD Reflections on the development of the doctrines governing Muslim appreciation of the Q u r h display a trend in Islamic scholarship away from openness and pluralism towards greater theological rigidity and defensive apologetics. Richard Aitken. Allah.*O Now.17. Selly Oak Colleges (September 1991). du I? Le Roux. ’Did those mortal beings imagine that Allah talked with the Quakers’ God?: Reflections on a Woodbrookcan conversation.i. is also a human construction. sexism. .’ in Th>d Wodd &ar/er/l: X:2 (1988). Increasingly we are beginning to understand that. ” C. ’What does Allah have to say to us as we face the Boers?” was a key question. and being made. The myth of Muslims being able to absorb the technological systems of modernity while being immune to its underlying meaning system is no longer tenable. as the liberation struggle was affectionately referred to. nearly two years after the unbanning of the African National Congress and the release of Nelson Mandela. My Context Truth. nor the flour from the eggs. ” ~ seemThe ingly inescapable legacy of our theistic beliefs and our ongoing-often inexplicable-commitment to them. it has left Muslims ill-equipped to deal with the challenges which invariably accompany the encounter with modernity and the crucial problems of racism. “What did Allah say to the Boers as they faced us?’ is a haunting corollary to “What did Allah have to say to us?”.‘ in/ou/na//o//s//ami- Stud& Nos. 9 & 10 (1989. The cake has been baked. our essential awareness of our minds are as ”the tissues of contingent relations in l a n g ~ a g e . 1990).i. whatever else it may be. by people who are not today whom they were yesterday. Modernity has accelerated the awareness that our minds are not tabula rasa furnished with facts entirely imported through cognitive or spiritual senses. we are forced to abandon comforting notions that we have the answers.’ Paper delivered at President’s Seminar. the sugar can no longer be separated from the water. It was South Africa and ‘The Struggle’. nor through the authority of religio-intellectual traditions.” What does it say about Allah’s power in the world When * While I shall focus on two key doctrines and their role in the shaping of Qur’anic scholarship it will be important to remember that these doctrinal developments converged with others in the field of tradition and jurisprudence to systematically increase the space of the unthinkable in Islamic theology.

”l2 To say that the majority of Muslims have perceived in Western Islamic scholarship a conspiratorial hostility and antagonism bent on subverting their faith is to state the obviou~. Buckley. more than just a distrust for Western scholarship which causes raised eyebrows and undisguised expressions of disdain when Muslims learn that I am engaged in studies in Qur’anic hermeneutics. 325.’~ While being reluctant to see a conspiracy. and Functionalists. l2 l3 . I do not think that the fears of confessional Islamic scholarship are entirely unfounded. ’The Hermeneutical Deadlock Between Revelationists. 35. literary.J. as we shall see. legal-date back to antiquity. Thus. fepretahbn?&vpylh 2khleylkxmadw LUhej HedeBe h isndCBdamer (Evanston: Northwestern University Press.’ in MW’rn Z5eologj 6:4 (1990). Palmer. Hermeneutics? Another name for relativism? Perhaps a ”solipsistic conversation in the consciousness of middle-class a~ademics”?’~ 1 3 . In many ways responses to the challenges posed by the writings of Cragg is based on this perception rather than any ‘objective’ appraisal of his work. 44ff.’ 22. or to recreate it as the exigencies of justice may demand. it encodes within itself ”newly formulated hegemonial interests (shaped within the bosom of Judeo-Christian culture) with incorporationist designs upon its neighbor^.”l6 According to Palmer. 1969)."^ There is. Textualists. lS J.17two broad streams may be discerned in one’s search for a definition of hermeneutics: The first stream regards hermeneutics as a general body of methodological principles which underlie interpretation while the second stream views hermeneutics as the philosophical exploration of the character and requisite conditions for all understanding. Consequently. and when we annunciate the mind of Allah? Where does objective reality feature when all of human understanding seems to be produced in ”the ‘thinginess’ of experience and appears as little less than an arrangement and distribution of power relations.QUR’ANIC HERMENEUTICS 121 responsibility to create a context. Towards a definition of hermeneutics The distinction between interpretative activity and the rules which govern such activity has been known from the earliest days of both biblical and Qur)anic studies. ‘7 Bid. is transferred to humankind. “while the term hermeneutics itself dates back only from the seventeenth century. however. f%JZ. It needs to be remembered that the discourse on modernity and historicity is itself located within a specific historicity. Braaten encapsulates both approaches when he defines hermeneutics as ”the science of Aitken. the operations of textual exegesis and theories of interpretation-religious. ’Reflections. 2. HumMeu/lG. Such a distinction is basic to hermeneutics. Richard E.

’Muslim Conservatism in South Africa. While Muslim scholars and organizations involved in the search for a contexCarl Braaten. Within and our own particular rationality and conceptions of justice we have thus experienced the historical tale of the Qur’Bn.122 THE MUSLIM WORLD reflecting on how a word or a n event in a past time and culture may be understood and become existentially meaningful in our present situation. It is with this understanding of the term that some of us in South Africa were first introduced to Qur)anic hermeneutics.we find various typologies rather inadequate when attempting to relate them to the Islamic tradition.0/‘ Rehgion. although never thematically posed.’ he says. 131. e. . ”hermeneutics’ is generally used to describe the attempt to cover the bridge between past and present. . ’The Hermeneutical Deadlock. justifying racism. the recovery of meaning and the problems surrounding this process. the term ”hermeneutics” thus refers principally to textual interpretation. %tr fhd 2o Ebrahim Moosa. of course. Reception Hermeneutics The South African engagement with the Qur’Bn in recent years has suggested that it is possible to have perfectly orthodox understandings of what the Qur’iin is about and yet use these texts in rather perverse ways.”~ Since Bultmann. 21 A. ”both the methodological rules to be applied in exegesis as well as the epistemological assumptions of ~nderstanding.iv. ’Muslim’s Discourse on Alliance Against Apartheid. normally contrasted with revelationism. were experienced in the bitter mid-1980 debates on inter-faith solidarity against apartheid.K. (Hermeneutics.g. Ahica. 3:2 (September 1990). 69 (1989). zz Buckley.’ in/ourna//br /hc S/u4.’ ’9 .22As with much else in the Western approach to social sciences. l. not primarily as a set of arguments about it. though.’ in/oumdo/ ~ ~ ~ o / o g l .”18’It involves.21The question of the aesthetics of reception-how a discourse-oral or written-is received by an audience is thus of more than academic or theological interest to us. Similarly the tensions between textualism-focussing literally on texts-and contextualism-focussing on patterns in the texts and contexts. we have been forced to distinguish between ”usingthe Qda” “holdinga doctrine” about it.20In this particular usage of the Qurkn.) Reception hermeneutics is usually discussed as one of the categories of functionalism in textual studies. In our usage. 1966). focuses on the use of a text and claims that certain texts are scripture only in so far as they pass certain pragmatic and functional test. but as a set of diverse uses of the Qu’Bn in particular socio-political circumstances.Tayob. s o y of Hermeneuks (Philadelphia: Fortress. Functionalism. alerts us to the fact that nothing is ”purely” academic or theological. / n / S o u / h e / / .

According to Fiorenza such interpretation ’needs to take into account not only the text or its original audience but also the transformation between past and present horizons. > 2. Reception hermeneutics focus on the process of interpretation and the appropriateness of interpretation rather than on the fmed literal text.-h&%. “including present popular understanding of the text as concretizations of its meaning.e. 19801. I t is only towards the end of the process of revelation that the Qur an is presented as scripture rather than a recitation or discourse.” (Q.ricon (Beirut: Librairie Du Liban. This is not to say that the differences in focus are not evident and thus. none would see themselves in opposition to “revelationists” for such a category does not exist in Islam. be included in the problem of interpretation. (Q. the Qurbn’s I& (inimitability) and its being pdbi leternall.’26 What are some of the central problems related to hermeneutics as an examination into the nature of scripture? Why is it that if Qur’anic studies is to remain wedded to a confessional Islamic theology then the only hermeneutics which Qur’anic scholarship can conceivably accommodate is that of context and reception? I believe that the answers to these are located in the developments around two keys doctrines governing Muslim appreciation of the Qur’Bn. 17:93).’: It rather refers to a revealed discourse in a process of unfolding in (divine)response to the requirements of society over a period of twenty-three years. 75:18) and ’a collection. one can actually speak of functionalism in the Islamic tradition.’ in fntqretation. 23.W. XLW4 (October 1990). Doctrines governing Muslim appreciation of the Qur’iln In the Q u r h itself the word Qur2. 17:S2 & 106). . i. 75:17) From the literal meaning especially the idea of collection-it is evident that Qurgfi is not always employed by the Qur’gn in the concrete sense of a particular scripture-a. with some reworking.”23 suggests that such an approach contrasts sharply with that of He historical positivism which ’views the text as a kind of archetypal substance that is present in a literary Reception hermeneutics would thus transform the analysis of the reception of a text “into a task of the study of the meaning of that text.”25It challenges historical positivism in that it requires that diverse receptions of the texts. ’recital” (Q. The closest the Qur ‘an comes to employing the word af-QzuAv in the sense which htuslims currently use it 23 Francis Schussler Fiorenza. the book-as it is commonly understood.is employed in the sense of ”reading” (Q. 2504. ’The Crisis of Scriptural Authority: Interpretation and Reception.QUR’ANIC HERMENEUTICS 123 tual appreciation of the Qur’Bn do see its value essentially in terms of its function today. hne’sArabicEn&>h Lz. Lane. 24 /bJb! 25 f b d 26 fbif 27 E.

The Qurh’s detractors were challenged by it to ”produce a discourse ”to (Q. like it’ (Q.b / i m a/-QurZn (Beirut: al-Maktabah al-Thaqafiyyah. 422 a/-Qur’sn (Cairo: al-Matba‘ah alSalafiyyah. 403 A. his veracity.’~~ disEarly cussion on the concept of ij2zcentered around the idea of tabadd.From the first announcement of his prophethood.’28 Two doctrines-both alluded to in Ibn Maqiir’s definition are central to ulm an understanding of M s i perception of the Q u r h as a sacred text and tensions between traditional Qurlanic scholarship on the one hand and contemporary ideas of hermeneutics on the other: 2. A/-fiqan/j.9:ll). The Doctrine of &z(inimitability) From the beginning of Islam. the Speech of Allah revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel (existing today) literally and orally in the exact wording of the purest Arabic. 17:88). al-Tayyib al-BHqillani. The apparent failure of Muhammad’s opponents to take up the challenge-Suyiiti says “none of them has been recorded as having busied himself with thi~”~’-was regarded as vindication of the Qur’an’s divine Muhammad b.the author of Lk2n af-hab. are snippets of ludicrous parodies that have a hollow ring to them and that do no credit to their authors’ (IssaJ. 117. ’I(j& and Related Topics.d. L/jsn a/-%&.H).The Qur’Bn then confidently declared that “they would not be able to produce the like thereof. 3 (Beirut: DBr Lian al-‘Arab. ’What remain of these attempts’. Muhammad encountered intense and bitter opposition to his mission from the Quraysh. 3o fifd 3’ Jahl el-Din al-Suyiiti. a gradually f accumulating composition. says Boullata. al-Manziir. Ibn Marqtir (d. bring forth ten similar 5Ur-h~’’ 11:13)or ”the like ofjust one surah” (Q. By its selfdefinition it is a ‘gathered book.124 THE MUSLIM WORLD is where it is mentioned with the Tawrgh and I q i l a s the name of the scripture o Muslims (Q. FJ Abii Bakr Muhammad b.i. n. 1349 H. ’understandably suppressed by orthodoxy. ”Indeed”. 1973). a M u s h tradition identifies very few such attempts. 42.). 75:17).5233-34). Mukarram b. even if they diligently assist one another’ (Q. Boullata. 10:38). ” (his) prophethood is built upon this rnujzah (miracle). 1312). reflects the view of the overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars when he defines the Qur’Bn as ’the inimitable revelation. One of the forms that this opposition took was to denounce the source of his claims and thereby.’ .says al-BBqillBni (d.” a rnu)hah which ”abides from its revelation up to the day of resurre~tion. Muslims have upheld the notion of the miraculous and inimitable nature of the Qur’an as a “sign” (ayah) or “proof‘ (burhh) of Muhammad’s prophethood. (Q.). 13.a challenge to Muhammad’s opponents to produce ”the like of the Q u r h ” .

56 Aba Muhammad‘AlI Ibn Hazm. semiotics and linguistics are discovered. 30 The most notable contemporary ones among these are the late Fazlur R a l p h (d. 1954)..ran's (lit. 232/846)-argued that the Qurhn is not intrinsically inimitable but that any actual attempt to imitate it is rendered futile by Allah.l]m. 1085) (an imam ties of the Qur’Bn as proof of its 1322~ al-haramayn and a teacher of al-Ghazdi) refused to recognize its unqualified aesthetic superiority a l t ~ g e t h e r .) 34 al-Zarkashi. (Cairo: Maktabat alKhHnji.QUR)ANIC HERMENEUTICS 125 The necessity to prove the veracity of Muhammad’s mission within the concrete religio-social situation of proclamation and rejection thus necessitated or occasioned the texts dealing with fabadd:After the demise of Maammad this necessity merged with the need to provide the Muslim ummd with an unassailable authority for doctrine to produce a systematic concept of . 2 highlights 32 the following: i. (ed. &z ’ d-Qd#n. A/-Burh#n 2:93-95: al-BaqilIani.90. 15ff.‘Abd Allah el-Zarkashi. was rejected by the general orthodox consensus. 19881. 1972). for example. 35 Some of the MuhziX’scholars-most notably al-N@m (d.. they have remained confined to the margins of Islamic thought.)Cf.1 58-59) This concept of deflection. was also persecuted for his views. 1988)and Muhammad Arkoun. in A. Badr al-Din Muhammad b.). Appmdes to the &story ofthe fntepretahon of/he Qur’a’n[Oxford:Clarendon. 2 -is not always well32 founded in early Qur)anicscholarshipor in contemporary Qur’anic discourse. c.]Muhammad Sayyid Kaylhi.38 This brief description of the development of the dogma of .and al-BHqillani.278. Abii al-Ma%I(Abd al-Malik al-Juwayni. The early scholars of the Q u r h held widely divergent views about the and the precise nature of the characteristics which elevate it bases of above all other literature. have a closer look . and soundness of its meaning and eloquence of its words”35 we shall shortly 9 2 under these headings. The Qur’anic revelation-of which the tabadd-(challenge) verses are a n early example-was intrinsically linked to the concrete religio-social situation of Prophetic proclamation and rejection of it. 1 [Wiut: DHr al-Ma‘rifah. 54-55. (al-ZarkashI. (ed.p.)M. refused to acknowledge the aesthetic qualiwhile al-Juwayni (d. at 1 2 The apparent unanimity around the doctrine of .) Arthur Jeffrey. 35 Ibn (Atiyyah. M-AqiYah a/-fizAx$yd~.d. ’’ . 1948). Ibn Hazm (d. Kawthari (Cairo.35 k 238-40. fit&5a/-F&/fia/-AfiYaJ3 (Cairo: n. 23-26.(. ‘turning away‘). Rippin led. M-Burh#n B %!/Urn af-Qur’Bn.]. and in R&mAn’s case. However. 622 8/-Qw&. 10641. 1317-21 H. Muqaddmah B %!Ern a/-QwZn. Orthodoxy finally settled on a comprehensive combination of these rather than a particular characteristic.%Ibn ‘Atiyyah (d. (cf.M&ammad(Abd al-KarIm a~-Shahrast&ni M-MYd wad-M&4[ed. . 1147)and others have broadly categorized these under ’its literary arrangement. ~ ~ today there has been a significant miEven nority of scholars who have attempted to re-open debate as new horizons in text criticism.2:106-7. 2 (Beirut: DHr al-Ma‘rifah.141. M-BurhJn. n.

soundness of meaning. are further testimony of the trend in blZ?n a/-Qu. Although this distinction does not appear in the Qur’Bn in the putative diachrony ascribed to it in tahiiand 51iah literature.e.b.prcfe/e/s.’39 In its linguistic and aesthetic character. 2. The Qw2n s n d h fnfe. . 7:380).and post-Hijrah). i. Soundness of Meaning: The Contents of the Q u r h The Q u r h describes its contents as an ’exposition of everything. a blessing and glad tidings for those who submit’ (Q. 1984).89) and declares that ’no single thing have We neglected in the Book’ (Q. Eloquence (of Words) The most widely accepted basis for the i 2 of the Qur’Bn is its linguistic 3z and aesthetic character: ’Its eloquence and rhetorical beauty.(Albany: State University of New York 1 Press. It is commonly known that Qur’anic scholarship has divided revelation into two distinct chronological periods. The contents of the Qur’gn are deeply reflective of the various phases of the prophetic epoch. eloquence of words and rhetorical style and the theological discussions surrounding each of these. we shall see.-16. and the precision. 2. economy and subtlety of its style. These assertions are also borne out by the discourse around various elements comprising the Q d i i n ’ s d&. knowledge of which revelation pertains to which prophetic phase is regarded by all the classical Qur’anic scholars as essential to an understanding of its contents. Belief in the supra-historicity of the Q u h n thus does not preclude its role as a historical scripture. 2.i. our present purposes we confine ourselves to a brief note on the relationship between content and context. the Ahkki-and fidani-(alsoknown as pre.i. The various theological formulations regarding its linguistic and aesthetic character. it could not have been the product of his mind. Although its contents and the nature of the guidance that the Qur’In offer humankind are for viewed as important dimension of its ij2~.a. a point consistently highlighted by Cragg. the historico-spatial connectedness of the Qur’an is evident. An example in this instance is the rejection of linguis- * Mahmud Ayoub. too.126 THE MUSLIM WORLD ii. Yet its depth of meaning and guidance is regarded as beyond the reach of Muhammad’s human and unlettered horizon. a guidance. Despite its ’beyondness’ the Qur’Bn evidently stands in need of a historical moment even if confined to the orthodoxy’s M k k i a n d Mdani-juristic considerations-to become meaningful.’aj7 to move from flexibility to rigidity or linguistic chauvinism. Early Qur’anic scholarship was not characterized by the closed certainties which came to dominate it subsequently.

Al-Suyii!I. In fact. j ~ ~ ~ J ~ ~ (ed. The earliest MuhskLq particularly those associated with 'Atdullah Ibn 'Abbas (d.%l literature credits Ibn 'AbbHs and 'his school' with having a special interest in seeking their origin and meaning. 24. *5 AbP Ja'far Muhammad Ibn Jarir a l .'@ The Qurkn.i. Much of the early discussion around the linguisticcomponents of the Qur'a centered around the presence..c. 26:195).e. i. Majid Khadduri. of non-Arabic words in it. Recent research seems to indicate that much of the supposed early works of Ibn (AbbHs dealing with the presence of non-Arabic words in the Q u r h may be 'fiction designed to the texts more credence by assigning them an early and prominent figure. 4 : 4 & 121-2) It is an 'Arabic Qurhn' in order to communicate 14 its meaning in a perfect manner to a people who took great pride in the expressive quality of their language. (Q. This opinion-seriously defended by the orthodoxy today still-thus rejected the idea that non-Arabic words were borrowed at the time of the Qur'anic revelation 40 Fazlur RalpnHn.~~~~*~R/j. Their linguistic skills and eloquence were sources of immense pride and the subject of ongoing inter-tribal rivalry and boasting. 11.16:103.) Al-Zarkashi." Non Arabs were called d-kh.' in h/amk s/udies. beyond goes etc) just being "an Arabic Q u r h ' (Q. 1 (1954). "manifest and free from all obscurity. 13:37.f 44 [1981].41The verses cited above became the key supportive texts for those who argued that the Q u r h did not contain any non-Arabic terms.* in B50A. it may be said that the roots of the doctrine of $Tiare located in this pride of the pre-Islamic Arabs." i." 'M-&ayawgna/ @urn'' means 'dumb animals.QUR'ANIC HERMENEUTICS 127 tic pluralism. /. Al-Zarka~hi~~ and al-SuyUtia mention some of theprominent scholars who regarded 'hubii'' to mean "pure:' To cope with the fact of words in the Arabic language which are also evident in non-Arabic languages some of these scholars such as al-Shiifi(i" and al-TabarT45 developed the notion of faw#fuq (coincidence). or otherwise.E.' (Andrew Rippin.)Muhammad . 13:37). Arab poets competed with each other by composing eloquent poetry. x )88-97. 122. Arab lexicographers explain the word 'arab' as meaning 'eloquent expression' or 'effective oral communication. 23-24. an "ordinance in the Arabic tongue' (Q. 'Ibn Abbs's Chiin8 a/-QurSff.Q u ~ ~ n and ShHkir. N-BurhJn. The Q u r b repeatedly asserts that it is a unique and inimitable Arabic Q u r h . They argued that both Arabic and other languages employ the same words with identical meanings and that this uniformity of meaning was coincidental. . .e. 689 C.135.99. 'those who cannot express themselves eloquently. They regarded such a notion as compromisingthe authority and inimitability of revelation.e. Hadr. the principle that no language is entirely independent in its development from that of another.) recognized and freely discussed a large number of non-Arabic words in the Qur'Bn. 19(1980). 1:287.T a b a r i . and asserts that its Arabic is 'hubih'' (Q. A/-fiqJn./u~ (Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press. 'Islam: Legacy and Contemporary Challenge.

Qur’anic Arabic became the standard of Arabic grammar. many of the narratives of the Qur’Bn are in an allusive style and Eminent scholars of the Q u r h such as the philo1ogisWmuhsbAbC ‘Ubayd (d. Muqdmmah B k& a/-QurZn. and JaliU al-Din al-SuyGti.138. 1468 C.E.) Arthur Jeffrey (Cairo: !n / Maktabat Khanji. however. 1 (Beirut: alMaktabah al-Thaqafiy ya h. Not only does the Qur’Bn repeatedly assert its Arabicity in a linguistic sense but. Literary Arrangement / a m / and Rhetorical Style/Uslgbm/ Nz m In addition to the babimubin (clear Arabic) emerging from the tongue of a Prophet who was widely regarded as illiterate. A/-Pqan /j. 1147 C. 838 C. non-Arabic included These attempts to extricate the Qur’iin from its historico-linguistic matrix It has led to greater rigidity which was alien to the earliest muhss~kUn.b / O m a/-QurSn. Allah’s own eternity and self-subsistence fused with those of His revelation. The Qur’Hn and its language thus came to be viewed as equally timeless and independent of any ‘non-divine’ elements.& The notion of any language or discourse being absolutely free from expressions or words used in another language is alien to the most basic linguistic principle. (ed. 1905). as is commonly known.E.i.c. /bd . however. Ibn ‘Atiyyah (d. ensured that this notion was rejected by the orthodoxy: i) The Qda not really regarded as human speech but as Allah’s is which is not subject to any linguistic principles. (The problem of Allah’s speech of necessity having to coincide with human speech for effect and meaning remains.128 THE MUSLIM WORLD from other languages or were naturalized Arabic words borrowed in the centuries before the Qur)Bn’s appearance. rooted in their-the later muhssikun’s-own commitment to the Qur’iin and in what Cragg describes as “a legitimate religious anxiety’47in “its abiding relevance. Indeed.e. continued to argue that the Qur’iin contained foreign words. Two factors. the most common aesthetic basis for the inimitability of the Qur’Bn forwarded is its literary form and rhetorical style.).)tried to reconcile theology with linguistic principles.) end‘Abd-al-Ralpiln al-Th‘alabi (d. Similarly. was. 1973). i. 6Abd al-R&man al-Th‘alabi. 17.” (We agree with Cragg that ”the significance of the Qur’Bn is sure enough and abides beyond such nervous and mistaken defense..c. 1954).”)4e 2. . ‘ ? Cragg The Event of the Qur Zn. it also conveys its message in terns familiar to the Arabs.p. They argued that the foreign words in the Qurhn came into Arabic through the ancient Arabs’ contacts with other languages in foreign travel and commerce but that they had been thoroughly Arabized by the time of the Prophet. This may sound trite. Al-Suyciti. the inter-relatedness of human speech. Ibn ‘Atiyyah.E. however. 136.) ii) For the orthodoxy. fit& a/+rvBh/j (Algiers:n.

This performative-informative function of lana guage w s reco ized by all the early scholars and hence the agreement that the Qur’iin’s i)Zz is located in both its message as well as its medium. . This is equally evident from the theological developments around the question of the nature of Allah’s speech which eventually secured the notion of the Qurbn’s uncreatedness and eternity as sacred doctrine.13:31. 2 : 1 ) 013. that it ddithuhhum a/-dhiXrg (may eventuate in their realization of truth (Q.i. The significance of nazm and udZ3 (arrangement and rhetorical style] can only meaningfully be appreciated by those fully conversant with Arabic culture and the Arabic language. 49 . The hermeneutical question regarding the 32z of the Qu&n which thus remains unanswered is whether nazm and a unique us/ribas its components would have been employed if the Qur’ln were to have been revealed in a non-Arab society? The achievement of the Qur’ln is that it does this so successfully and still engages numerous adherents from countless other cultures in a n entrenching manner.’I(jaz and Related Topics.a point highlighted by al-Ata.n i Idhk History h (Unpublished Ph. This is particularly evident from the Qur’iln’s use of uhd?hu. . The way the problem found its most specific formulation is itself reflective of the inexorable progression in Islamic theology in broadening the space of the “unthinkable. so that they may keep from evil. fiaz and its implications for hermeneutics The QdU itself and Qur’anic scholars have always conceived of language as simultaneously speech and act.’ Boullata.85:2122 etc. 25. (2:19-20. Yet for many scholars nqzm and us106 have come to be synonymous with 4$2z49 2.QUR’ANIC HERMENEUTICS 129 presuppose that the recipient community has some prior knowledge of the story or allegory. is itself regardedby the Qur’iin as a salvitic event.39:23. as well as in proclamation. The word-event which occurs in revelation. The Doctrine of Uncreatedness and Eternity The connection between the formulation of dogma and its socio-poIitica1 matrix are as inescapable as the ties between history and revelation.’ so Sid Muhammad al-Ata.d thesis London: University Microfilms International 1975) 96.d.17:107.).50 F Thus we have revealed it an Arabic Q u r h . The Hefmeneutkgf Probfem of the Qur2. Allah is encountered by humankind /hf-ihsZq)through language.

Reflections on the transforming doctrinal positions during and subsequent to the Manah (833-848). saw a period of intense theological speculation. The question now at stake was: Does the Qurbn co-exist with Allah in all eternity or. particularly. The Mu‘fazilahand the emergence of Kalani Shortly after its emergence. afterwards it became.) S. from its origins. M u s h Studex (tr. ’it was not.’ El .ii. 827).m)of Allah in the sense of whether or not it was a divine attribute. i. Islam had been inseparably dn w-dawfd (religion and polity). it is not surprising that the political struggles among the early Muslims should also have led to the elaboration of theologi5’ 52 53 Ignaz Goldzihtr. in the first half of the ninth century the somewhat non-assertive ‘Yays8 bi-makhhq”was replaced by a morc definitive @ayr makhfuq” (uncreated). Given that.a. i.&teaching and the political program of the h52514yah.e.the Mu$azdahas well of their bitterest opponents-and subsequent annihilators-the Mu&ddthUn. ” ~ ~ the defenders of the faith ended up being its subverters. mirrors this transformation. Abti al-(AbbBs al-Ma’mtin (d. they are never shaped in an ideological vacuum. hy5a bbmakhfUq (‘not created’)? Finally. accompanied by a ’tangle of dogmatic c ~ m m e n t a r i e s ’ ~ ~ removes the text from the ”spirit which that pervades its true essence. 855) in this debate. This period is invariably. this was true of the progenitors of KafZ. Stern (London: Allen and Unwin. Islam. 1971). while ideas are not always born with an awareness of their political implications. it must be acknowledged that this discipline itself arose out of questions implicit in the Q d a n i c fact.m.’52 ”More intent on proof than on e l u ~ i d a t i o n . not unlike other religions. M. Subsequently another dimension of that question gradually acquired greater significance: Is it created [makhfdq) or not. fbfZ fbh! Nyberg.are instructive with regard to the virtual elimination of theological diversity. While this problem was the outcome of a post-prophetic theological discipline. Kah-m. The changing theological position of Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.’ No controversy has influenced Islamic scholarship in general and Qur’anic scholarship in particular as decisively as this one. Nyberg argues that Muhzi3teaching in general can only be “perfectly understood’ as ’the theoretical crystallization of the political program of the (Abbasidsbefore their accession to power. However. ’Mu’tazilah.kzd%enefactor. as one of the polemicists put it. 67.”%This may be overstating the political nature of the relationship between Mu?a. 2.e.130 THE MUSLIM WORLD Initially the debate centered around the question of the Qur’Bn as the speech /kafZ. a kind of “inquisition” or trial instituted by the Mu.

If the Q u r b were eternal. Often this has been acknowledged and not without considerable regret. not solely intra-Muslim polemics which shaped the emergence and development of Kd2m. What is self-evident is that &f%kv as a definitive discipline is rooted in the earliest socio-political struggles within the Muslim community. . undisputed is that in being confronted with Christian Christological literature and the underlying epistemologies. Much has also been written about the allegedly Christian basis of seemingly essentially intra-Muslimpolemics. The various streams of intellectual and religious thought which influenced the development of Ka/m and.55a position now widely discredited. Tritton.ib The focal point of Mu$azi2-theology was their emphasis on the absolute unity of Allah and on His justice (hence their self-description as a h l d . therefore. It was inevitable that the development of Islamic thought should be influenced by other cultures. their primary concern was to uphold His absolute unity.QUR'ANIC HERMENEUTICS 131 cal problems. would detract from Allah's "utter beyondness. It was inevitable that political issues were clothed in religious b . 2 i . however. they argued. uniqueness and immutability. To suggest that anything.contact with the world of non-Islam was equally responsible. d garments. In dealing with the issue of Allah's attributes. even divine revelation. Wensinck et a1. It is generally agreed that the affir- 55 Morris Scale.). 1964). have been extensively discussed by Western scholarship (Goldziher. in light of the subsequent explicit co-operation between h &w political ideology and MugazGtheological discourse. more specifically. There is considerable uncertainty as to when exactly serious theological discussion commenced on the nature of Allah's speech and on the question of the Qur%n's createdness or otherwise. Mu faz&dogma. they reasoned. contact with nonMuslim thought and institutions of learning accelerated and left its mark on Muslim institutions and ideas. it is quite tenable that there was considerable convergence between these in their formative stages. the players in all of these events would thus all have had their fate sealed. Muslims could no longer confine themselves to the Q u r h . however. and in particular with the attribute of speech. even before birth. it was at this point that Greek conceptions and intellectual methodology were employed. Mushm Theology A Study of the Origins wi?h h'ehrence /o the Church Pa&en (London: Luzac dr Company. What is. With the spread of Islam. The Uncreated and Eternal Speech of Allah . Watt. it followed that all the events narrated therein were preordained. .s d waaf-faw&Y." Their principle of Divine Justice resulted in a rejection of notions of Allah's arbitrary rule and predestination. It was. shared in any of these characteristics.

A large number of jurists. Montgomery Watt. 745)and that this discussion was confined to a few scholars until the time of the Manah. the @an&MAdJh98h. Their name came to be eternally associated with all those who denied the createdness of the Qur’iin. shortly after the accession of alMutawakkil (d. The most prominent among the latter was Ibn Hanbal who was publicly flogged and imprisoned for his beliefss7 The M3nah aroused fierce opposition among the population of Baghdad whose clear anti-inteIlectual bias rejected what it regarded as the intellectual gymnastics of fi12m in favor of the more simple and literal flad?!.7hbaq#/a/~~~ffah (Cairo: n. 56 . compelling nature of the controversy is evident from the establishment of the Manah towards the end of al-Ma)mUn’s reign in 833.E.Most leading officials and other prominent personalities were forced to publicly profess the createdness of the Q u h n . The Mu’tazilah were denounced asfahmiwah 58 and the intermediary position that the Quhnis uncreated but mu&M (an event originated in time)% was denounced as heresy.p.W.J. unlike the MUk9Zihh.132 THE MUSLIM WORLD mation of the uncreated nature of the Qur’iin chronologically followed the assertion of its created nature by al-Ja‘d b. 59 Brief accounts of various intermediate positions between the created-uncreated poles have been preserved in the heresiographies and in the polemical works of the victors. 1897). The fahnnpyah. Subsequently the denunciations transcended even this to ‘hmshah-a GkuhXihhqadkafs” (whosoeverdoubts their disbelief also denies the faith). Al-Shahrasthi says that al-Ja‘d was the first to espouse the concept of the createdness of the Q u h n . 745 C. .e caliph) until it was abandoned in 848. i. An increase in state interest in Ka&v is.Brill. s Wilferd Madelung.). ’Early Discussions About the Qur’an’ in Mus/lin Wudd XL (1950). politically The and emotionally-during the reign of al-Ma’mtin (813-833). Works entitled ’Refutation of the jahmiyyah’ were produced.E. 1929-30) is a prime example of the latter. Dirham (d.The M$ndcontinued intermittently under the next two huhh.809) especially saw debate on this issue becoming quite extensive.56 This controversy reached new heights-intellectually.(singular&aAT&.). however. Safwm (d.. A ~ m 8 ~ f & f f ? c / a n a a / a / ~ e(Leiden: E.M.‘ ’ in Rehg~ous~cu/sand&r/sij? MrO/eva/fs/am (London: Variorum Reprints. continued in secret to uphold the doctrine of an uncreated Q u r b and a few refused to submit to official doctrine. 847). discernible from the time that the hbb2sijyh came to power: the period of H&fin al-Rashid (d. however. denied that Allah really speaks.most theologians submitted. Patton. 1324 H. ’The Origins of the Controversy Concerning the Creation of the Qur’an. 743)and al-Jahm b. 56 So named after Jahm Ibn Safwiin (d. and Taj al-Din al-Subki.The repression unleashed during the M3mh polarized the various protagonists to a hitherto unknown degree and orthodox Islam asserted its ideas with a rigidity that was alien to it in the period preceding the M&d. 1985). With a few exceptions. 745 C. (ed.27.) follower of al-Ja’d Ibn Dirham who was a executed for his heretical views during the last years of the reign of the Umayyad Khalifah Hisham (d. Al-Ash‘ari’s Maga‘/aa/h/!mi+y/> Ritter.

however. the ?yan2612!ah/ Ash&&~d~ came to occupy the center and their doctrine triumphed as the intennediate position. 767) to a &&!!attributed and and to‘Amr h Din& al+diq and Abii Hanifah accepted the Qur%n as Allah‘s speech while ignoring or rejecting respectively its uncreatedness61 In the post-Mand period. ” Madelung. however. Post-Mihnah Crystallization of Doctrine As the scope of the doctrine of the eternal and uncreated Q u r h expanded. or applicationof. Here Madelung refers to the discourse on the positions ascribed to Ja‘far algdiq (d. Rehgious &huo/s and&c& 521.c.ii. ~ J Z . this now became the case with ‘@hayr-maA+hq. ”created” came to be regarded as essentially meaning ”temporal’ and ’uncreated” as meaning ’eternal” / a ) @h. 2) In the pre-Mjhah period the notion of the Qur’an’s createdness was not viewed as synonymous with the notion of its temporality.+!! usually applied to the followers of Ibn Hanbal with the emphasis on is their commitment to. Subsequently the conflict came to be viewed as ’basically concerned with temporality versus eternity. 61 . his juristic principles. The appetite for the use of the new weapons of xa/m acquired by the orthodoxy were insatiable and as previously the elastic ‘Yayssa 6i-makhhq” was found to be ihadequate. Ibn Hanbal was evidently among those who refrained from any addition to the statement that ’the Qur’iin is the speech of Allah. The Ashhflyah are the theological heirs of Ibn Hanbal and used ka/!m methods denounced by him.’ He is even quoted as having said: Whoever asserts that the Q u r h is created is a f d m . to arrive at his conclusions. and 512. 513ff. some even regarded it as necessary and virtuous do so.QUR’ANIC HERMENEUTICS 133 T i unstoppable march of the orthodoxy into the terrain of the ”thinkhs able’ and its conversion into ’unthinkable’ territory is evident from the following: 1) Prior to the Mianah it was acceptable to most Traditionists of undoubted orthodoxy to suspend judgment on the question of the Q u r h ’ s createdness or otherwise. came to signify a particular theological position: f literalism and the acceptance of dogma without enquiry. 765) Abii Hanifah (d.more than any o the other three prominent Sunmijurist eponyms.a n d whoever asserts that it is uncreated is a heretic innovator. 508 I&d.’@’ D r n and after the M&wh this attitude of suspension uig of opinion was transformed into an insistence on a declaration in favor of its uncreatedness and even a bitter denunciation of those who maintained silence. Ibn Hanbal.”‘j2 2. the position articulated by Ibn Hanbal and his successors. The tern ?ya#b.

134 THE MUSLIM WORLD The refined orthodox doctrine on the nature of the Q u r h is expressed epigramatically in a sentence attributed to a m a d ibn Hanbal: ”What lies between the two covers is the Speech of Allah. The Implications of the Mihnah for Qur’anic . created in its letters and sounds @ d w a y k i ~ The concept of the Qu&n being uncreated thus came to include the written copy with its letters written in ink and put on paper.p. The Mu. The issue was thus not so much what the Qurkn or Allah says but what He was willed to say by the believers.m. . The earliest Muslims did not discuss the issue despite attempts to fabricate & Z to indicate the contrary. and uncreated in its essence and sense. For more d4 than a century the vast majority of Muslim scholars. i. Mumad l(Cairo:n.bi-a/-Qu~& mahA7q” (‘my uttering of the Q u r b is created”) was denounced as heretical a n d even al-Bukhari-who considered such pronouncements admissible-was not saved from d e n u n c i a t i ~ n . 1859).id Scholarship and Hermeneutics In our discussion on the nature of the Qurkn we have attempted to demonstrate that both the epistemologicaltools. the Speech of Allah. and the direction of the discourse on scripture were shaped by external sociopolitical forces.e. (It is said that Al-Ash‘ari wrote a commentary on this issue in which he explained every verse employed by his opponents in such a way that his new interpretation supported his own views. ii. including the Mubaddihfin.. When the matter became an issue of political and public debate it was resolved with an inflexible ‘true’doctrine of the Qur’an’s uncreatedness and eternity. operate within a specific geo-sociological space and period. S/udes . The intolerant spirit with A l p 1 4 Ibn Hanbal. is eternal. From the regular resort to the Q u r h for legitimation by all sides it is evident that the plausibility of both its createdness and non-createdness may be inferred therefrom. the progressive content of many of their ideas.did not pronounce on this question. with them. ~ ~ 2 i . 415. Mu. the discipline of Kd2.’64 It specifies that the Q u r h . in turn. The expression ‘%&I. Soon it came to pass that that ’which is read in the prayer niches as it emerges from the throats of the believers” was upheld as inseparable from Allah’s eternal and uncreated word.~J~+J 73. Goldziher. Intermediate theological positions and ideas of doctrinal tentativeness were virtually eliminated. (but) ).) We may summarize the consequences of these theological developments as follows: i.%azi+!!hwere reduced to a heretical fringe and. These forces.

Anything remotely conceding any aspect of Qur’anic 64 With the notion of b& kay% Ibn Hanbal attempted to resolve the conflict between reason and revelation and this was particularly employed to ’explain’ the apparently anthropomorphic expressions in the Q u r b . ’The victory was won by orthodox Islam’ says Wensinck. no matter what form it takes.kah that it overwhelmed the victors. so compelling was the K a l . If the ideas of the Mu$aziId were virtually destroyed then their methodology survived. orientation of the discourse and of the engagement with the Mu$az. This distinction. 1965). Whether this is adequate in coping with the challenges of modernity is doubtful.’67 What are the hermeneutical implications of the actual subject: the suprahistoricity of scripture? 1. Like the futile distinction between the technological benefits and their underlying value system-and this is not suggested judgementally-we will have to face the consequences of our shortsightedness. 2.’68 from its genesis. in fact unrelated. ’Flee from Kalh. Yet it could not refrain from making use of the weapons which it found there. Yet. ‘without how. . Concomitant with the above was the re-emergense of the orthodox position with a vengeance and armed with the all-purpose doctrinal weapon of b & k y c (lit. Traditional Islamic scholarship has made a neat and seemingly unbridgeable distinctionbetween the production of scripture on the one hand and its interpretation and reception on the other. 135 iii. issue.Ltd. 66 iv. ’without further enquiry’). if it is to continue as indeed seems to be the case is the crucial factor in the shaping of Qur’anic hermeneutics for it implies that the only hermeneutics which Islam can cope with is that pertaining to interpretation and reception. ’An Islamic Model of Revelation. the Qur’an’s being a ’work’ was itself disputed as was the question of its (historical) ’event-ness’ (muhdath).e.QUR)ANIC HERMENEUTICS which they ruthlessly pursued their ideas-and their opponents-and the reason which they brought to bear upon questions of belief were. U l k early biblical scholarship which was at least unanimous about nie the Bible being a ’work’-God’s or that of men-in Islam the transcendentalist perspective went beyond this. that it will only be a matter of time before Muslims are confronted with the interconnectedness of these issues. Shabbir Akhtar. however. however. The latter. it is claimed. ’which finally took possession of the fortress of the enemy. It would seem.’ in k h m andMushm-Cbnh%9nReidion$ 2:l.B/~veiopmen/ Frank Cass Ilondon: k Co. TheMudh m h ! ! Cenesrj-~dH~sto~li. as you would flee from a lion’ was the motto of the Mu$wdd&7n.’ i. This is now the accepted v i m of the/>mhui: w AJ.Wensick. i-ala which is to unquestioningly accept matters of dogma. to abide with Muslims until this day. is an ’entirely different.

has taken place within history and has been conditioned by history.C. as we shall see. Thus. is also an historical phen~menon. involve more than the struggle for relevance or contemporary contextuality. like others. and the Qurbn's claims to be a guide to people who are located within history mean that revelation remains related to history. 'The True Meaning of Scripture. in a broader sense. are as far reaching in their implications as those of the genesis of the Qur>m. In this respect Qur'anic scholarship may follow the path walked by early biblical scholarship whereby classic Christian exegesis and polemics around the Reformation was characterized by considerable accusations of exegesis being a product of human systems going wrong without questioning the genesis of scripture. the doctrine of & as well as the historical factors which occasioned it. . not in the sense to "concoct /bL? W. Reception Hermeneutics and Islamic Scholarship Reception hermeneutics. while on the surface less likely to provoke the amompropre of the orthodoxy.491. Moreover."~ 3. In our discussion on i3Zzwe have seen how.i. There was thus considerable debate about the historical setting of scripture and how that setting influences interpretation without touching the nature and genesis of scripture. Muslims. putative or real. on the one hand and on the other. the life of Mu?mnmad may be regarded as a commentary on and exposition of the Qur'iin. whatever else it may additionally be. The way in which the formula of the Qur'Bn's eternity found ex% pression. Smith. have connected with a reality transcending history and that revelation. the corporate M s i attempt to work out in practice the meaning of the divine ulm In all such cases.' @ E ?X " 489. as Cantwell Smith so cogently argues 'scripture.136 THE MUSLIM WORLD revelation is summarily dismissed as making 'conceptual room for posing a potentially dangerous question about the authority of scripture. The theological questions raised by it. he argues. the valid interpretation of a particular verse is the best possible interpretation that one can think of. the whole of Islamic history might in some ways be viewed as-at least ideally-an elaborating and implementing of its meaning however inadequate such attempts may have been. /bid."j9 To the extent that hermeneutics also deal with the genesis and nature of a text it is thus difficult to foresee Muslim scholars of the Qur'Hn ever taking it on board. 3. Cantwell Smith has cogently argued that Islamic history might be seen as 'the ongoing inter-play between human and mundane distractions.

vl~lfr and that of t d s i i n general will be particularly rich in yielding precedents for a contemporary reception hermeneutic. These genres must be fully explored as among the richest concretizations of Islamic scholarship coping with the quest for meaning. Muslim scholars have excelled in providing an understanding of the Qur’h and. more pertinently. 1987).. ii. if it seeks to deal creatively with the challenges of modernity. The Cbnmpt of Reve18tiOn: F m the People of the h k to the m W e t % s /be Boo. of 7 ‘ &/Z . Such an exploration. a monograph (California:Claremont Graduate School. UsUl al-tafsir The geixes of n a s .72 Within this broad examination of a legacy of interpretion. a tool of legitimation for the state and the values enforced by this state’n (and) Islam as a way offered to humankind ‘to discover the Absolute. locating the meaning of various texts within their S k h / & and en giving us insights into how these texts were received by the earliest hearers. fairly obvious. we believe that the genres of bf&n d-Qu/& (Qdanic studies) and qsd d-fiqh (the principles of jurisprudence) contain theological and juristic precedents for a contemporary henneneutic of reception. It cannot merely repeat previous understandings dressed in contemporary jargon.’‘ 3. An attempt to rediscover blLm d-Qu/% and YsUf-af-fiqh must therefore be accompanied by an attempt to distinguish between orthodoxy as a ’militant ideological endeavour. What needs to be emphasized here is the need for a hermeneutical theory which enables us to go beyond examining the ”occasions’ of isolated /b/Z Muhammad Arkoun. in the discussion on the Qur’an’s createdness. We have seen.ii..QUR’ANIC HERMENEUTICS 137 it cunningly or contrive it irresponsibly’ as one’s adversaries may want to proff er.I@ (Marginal notes)-in a desperate struggle to avoid rejection and to lay claims to legitimacy. Lack of space prevents us from a detailed discussion on how these different genres can be incorporated into reception hermeneutics and the problems connected to each. The relevance of n a s a and a5b2b d-nuzri/in examining how the Q u r h was perceived to be interactingwith history is however..a. In the formulation of qd d-tdsii in general and the genres of nasa and ash% d-nuzolin particular. how theology came to occupy the position of an ideology in the service of the powerful. ash3 a/-nuza h n a/-m&fii%l wa-dmadani. This means that we must eschew the tendency in Islamic scholarship to augment existing accepted works-&shy& upon &. 7. must however be alert to the following: i. Through a merging of distinct horizons it must produce new meaning..

but belong to its productivity." The task of reception hermeneutics is not the recovery of an elusive authorial intention but a study of and a contribution to the ongoing and ever varying approximations of it. 'Understanding the Qdh. and Context. our classic (worship)and mu$maI#f (social distinction between $qi&h (dogma). ' i hquiry(May.C. 1986).b. 369. as Martin so cogently argues.' in fslamk9u&& 19(1980).ii. 'must focus on the interpretation of meaning. Meaning. i. .'76 Scholars arguing for a bypassing of fafiiTwork ignore that exegesis is not an interpretation but rather an extension o the symbol f and must itself be interpreted. and 'Interpreting the Q d h . would include religio-political tracts or the publications of traditionalist clerics' reception hermeneutics would examine the multifarious receptions. however. to my mind. 1990).' Implicit in these calls are usually an refers to as "the age attempt to ignore the productions of what Fazlur of commentaries' in an attempt to recover what is perceived to be the pristine meaning of the Qurkn. This intepretative task would embrace the problem of the "shift in horizons of diverse audiences.13 a task emphasized particuiarly by Fazlur It is. Most modernist or reformist scholars have taken up the call "back to the a source (Qurhn)"'s it clarifies itself. n 76 R. /bid. concretizations and interpretations of the text. the vast legacy and ongoing production of tahiAiterature in its various forms which will occupy the attention of the reception hermeneut as the key to 'meaning' because the meaning of the Qurbn for people is the history of its meanings. XLIV (October. Usd a/-fiqh While the idea of orthopraxis in the realm of jurisprudence has often been conceptualized in terms of an ever-contemporary transcendent dimension on the one hand and the ever changing historical form on the other. 78 Fiorenza.' fntepretaion. even if these exegetical additions belong to the phase of redaction. they are not quite exterior to the text. 'The Crisis of Scriptural Authority. Basing itself on t2hFliterahu-ein its widest sensethis. mmh.'78 3.' i HdoqfofRe&Jon&21:4 (1982). 22. they fail to acknowledge the role of people in the meaning making enterprise. Rxt n 363. While these calls are clearly premised on the recovery of meaning on the basis of reason. Martin. and the transformation between past and present horizons of expectations toward the text. h-%z% dealings) has prevented us from seeing those same principles operative in 75 Fazlur 'Islam: Legacy and ContemporaryChallenge.138 THE MUSLIM WORLD texts into one which examines the $ 2 ~ /ebm of the Q u r b as an entirety.

how theology came to occupy the position of an ideology in the service of the d-Qu/% and usuf-af-fiqh powerful. The relevance of nas& and as626 d . 7' . The Gbnmpt of ReVCf8tlon. as&iba/-nuzg $ i a/-m&wi wa-dmsdniwi and that of t d s i i n general will be particularly rich in yielding precedents for a contemporary reception hermeneutic. Lack of space prevents us from a detailed discussion on how these different genres can be incorporated into reception hermeneutics and the problems connected to each. These genres must be fully explored as among the richest concretizations of Islamic scholarship coping with the quest for meaning. M s i scholars have excelled in providing an understanding of the Q u r h and. 7. locating the meaning of various texts within their Si2hfeben and giving us insights into how these texts were received by the earliest hearers. Usuf al-tafsir The geiwes of msh.'' 3. ii. It cannot merely repeat previous understandings dressed in contemporary jargon.'F m the Peopfe of the bbok to the m W e t i k s of the h . 1987). a tool of legitimation for the state and the values enforced by this state'n (and)Islam as a way offered to humankind 'to discover the Absolute. fairly obvious. fin attempt to rediscover must therefore be accompanied by an attempt to distinguish between orthodoxy as a 'militant ideological endeavour. must however be alert to the following: i.ii. more pertinently.a. a monograph (California:Claremont Graduate School. Such an exploration. in the discussion on the Qur'iin's createdness. In the formulation of d f h in -d? ulm general and the genres of nas& and as686 d-nuzuf in particular.n u z d i n examining how the Q u r h was perceived to be interacting with history is however. What needs to be emphasized here is the need for a hermeneutical theory which enables us to go beyond examining the 'Occasions' of isolated 72 f3 /blZ filZ Muhammad Arkoun.QUR'ANIC HERMENEUTICS 137 it cunningly or contrive it irresponsibly' as one's adversaries may want to proff er. we believe that the genres of bf&n d-Qurhn ( Q d a n i c studies) and qsuf d-fiqh (the principles of jurisprudence) contain theological and juristic precedents for a contemporary hermeneutic of reception. We have seen. This means that we must eschew the tendency in Islamic scholarshipto augment existing accepted works-&d&m5 upon &Cdiyah (Marginal notes)-in a desperate struggle to avoid rejection and to lay claims to legitimacy. Through a merging of distinct horizons it must produce new meaning.72 Within this broad examination of a legacy of interpretion. if it seeks to deal creatively with the challenges of modernity.

Arkoun. stops short of this saying ’that there is no access (emphasismine) to the absolute outside the phenomenal world of our terrestrial.140 THE MUSLIM WORLD iii.9. Differences in meaning entail differences in authority We are confronted with a plethora of urgent questions: What is an ’authentic’ appreciation of the Qur)anic message today? What constitutes and infoms ’authenticity?‘ How legitimate is it to produce meaning-as distinct from extracting meaning-from Qur’anic texts? These are some of the issues which hermeneutics do not create-they have always been with us-but will have to be confronted. ’The Crisis of Scriptural Authority. Rorenza. we see questions of the authority of the past intrinsic to ’the question of the meaning of the past in relation to the meaning of the present’ and as Fiorenza points out the issue of authority becomes integrated with that of meaning.= It is no longer simply a question whether a scriptural text has authority or not.hgfd!. The neat distinction between the genesis of the Qur’gn and the recovery of meaning is thus of little consequence and even absurd. historical existence.’82This is not a major step from postulating the unthinkable: that the divine is itself subject to historicity. divinity lies within the working of that contest and cannot be predicated transcendentally outside the contest as the guarantor of a finally achievable meaningM iv. If there is no access to meaning outside history. however.’ (unpublishedpaper). Rethhk.v83 Sooner or later those connections will have to be confronted as Aitken has argued: ’Ib write large the sipficance of human agency is to see that meaning is itself a contest within power relations. . Iz /&J/b! M. Elsewhere I have dealt with the history of these challenges in South Africa *I Arkoun. ’Reflections. for as meaning becomes historical. does this imply that human contingency empowers Allah and that His presence has no ‘meaning‘outside human existence? Arkoun has dealt at length with the w y all of a person’ssemiotic productions are subject to historicity and a argued along the lines of Paul Ricoeur that ’as a semiotic articulation of meaning for social and cultural the Q u r h is itself ’subject to historicity. Instead the question of the meaning of the text takes priority and only in the context of the resolution of the issue of meaning can the issue of authority be resolved. They are intrinsic to the search for a Q d a n i c response to the challenges confronting us today.’ 18. /bid Aithen.

QUR’ANIC HERMENEUTICS 141 and the Muslims response to them. Perciaccante’s original manuscript (one copy per subscriber). Bihngham Univers2y Um2dfigdom FARID ESACK Esack. must live in history. Marianne Perciaccante for editorial errors in her article ’The Mormon-Muslim Comparison’ (Z4eMu. Subscribers may apply to the Editors for a copy of Ms.living under the yoke of oppression and struggling with the equally oppressed ’other’ in the hope of liberation. ’Three Islamic Strands in the South African Struggle f r Justice. 1992). o Cragg. 17. 296) ”editions’ in note 20 to read ”editors’ (p. (Summer 19861.” D 2 foge 19. The Event of /he Qw3n. Jones. a pluralism of splendid and joyous epistemological neutrality or ”objectivity’ along the lines advocated by Arkoun is not an option that can be pursued with integrity. like its quality. Perciaccante’sapproval.= I have argued that debate in contemporary Islamic thought must shift to a clearer understanding of mediating cultures which inform it rather than it being confined to conflicting epistimologies which are only the consequence of competing ideological claims. We agree with Cragg that ’the study of the Qur’m. due to printing deadlines. we have been compelled to go beyond that and ask the crucial question: ’Whose history? For those who eke out an existence on the margins of society.h Worfd July-October. The Editors express sincere apology to Ms. I’ . The Editors further apologize that. ”The wmadi’s of Islam: A Mormon Encounter and Comparison. All of human endeavour takes place within a context. 301) note 68 to include the following reference: Garth. 39-54. N. In a context of racial division and economic exploitation the freedom to rethink the meaning of meaning and of the reception and appropriation of scripture must be geared towards the forging of hermeneutical keys which enables one to read the text in a manner which facilitates the liberation of the oppressed. Readers are asked to note the following corrections: 1844-77 as the dates of Brigham Young’s Presidency (p.’ 17.’87 However.the edited version of the article appeared without Ms.