Review of Michael Pregill, The Golden Calf between Bible and Qur’an

Review of Michael Pregill, The Golden Calf between Bible and Qur’an

Michael Pregill’s The Golden Calf between Bible and Qur’an sets out, via a thick reading of a single pivotal and representative narrative in the story of the Calf (or “Golden Calf” in common Jewish and Christian discourse), to situate the Qur’an within the larger religious and literary context of the Late Antique world. That it takes him nearly 450 pages to present and develop his argument attests to the complexity of the intertextual relationships he examines and the sticky methodological issues that have plagued and continue to beset those trying to make sense of traditions known from the Bible as they occur in the Qurʾān. It also attests to the extent of due diligence he undertook through his exhaustive reference to earlier research on the episode in its many literary settings. The core passage in question is found in Q Ṭā Hā 20:83–98, a qurʾānic chapter ripe with renderings of stories known also in the Jewish and Christian Bibles as well as other pre-Islamic extra-biblical works; a second and shorter telling is found also in Q al-Aʿrāf 7:148–153 and a brief reference in Q al-Baqarah 2:51–54.

Review of Francisco del Rio Sanchez, Jewish Christianity and the Origins of Islam

While the volume under review is dedicated to the Qurʾān’s relationship to Jewish Christianity, a number of its contributions call into question the very usefulness of this category. Accordingly, the work is more than a consideration of the relationship between supposedly Jewish Christian groups such as the Ebionites, or supposedly Jewish Christian scriptures such as the Pseudo-Clementines, and the Qurʾān. It offers a broad consideration of the nature of Judaism and Christianity in late antiquity and the ways in which the Qurʾān engages with this sectarian milieu. The volume, which emerged from an ASMEA panel in 2015, is a significant contribution to the study of the Qurʾān in its late antique context.

Review of Johanna Pink, Muslim Qurʼānic Interpretation Today

Have you ever wondered why Ibn Kathīr’s tafsīr is so ubiquitous online, in multiple languages, and in translations of different lengths? Or, what percentage of Muslims read the Qurʾān in previous centuries, and what “reading” meant? About the proliferation of pious lectures or advice-giving programs on YouTube and the details of the people behind them? Have you wondered about the role of nation-states in the politics of Qurʾān interpretation?

Review of Suha Taj-Farouki, The Qur’an and Its Readers Worldwide

The interpretation of the Qurʾān has never been an exclusively Arabic language endeavor. However, the number of Qurʾān translations and qurʾānic commentaries in languages other than Arabic increased steadily, or even explosively, throughout the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first for a number of reasons. For example, nation states promoted national languages and taught them in their educational institutions; literacy in non-Arabic languages became a mass phenomenon, and print technology became widely available. This phenomenon has hardly been sufficiently studied, and comparative approaches that bring a perspective to works in more than one language are still a rarity. Therefore, the publication of this edited volume by Taji-Farouki that presents its readers with an unprecedented broad perspective on the global field of Muslim qurʾānic exegesis is more than welcome. It brings together ten chapters that present exegetical approaches from all over the world: Bosnia, Turkey, South Asia, Indonesia, Iran, Egypt, the U.S., East Africa, Germany, and China. Thus, it contains examples from Muslim majority societies as well as diasporic communities, from the early twentieth century to the present, maybe overstretching the term “contemporary” a little. Most of the chapters are original; two have been published elsewhere before.

Review of George Bristow, Sharing Abraham?

This book is the inaugural volume of the ISRME Studies in Religion and Theology series of the Institute for the Study of Religion in the Middle East. Its author, George Bristow, is a Protestant minister who has lived and worked in Turkey since 1987, and the book is based on his 2015 dissertation at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. A brief introduction is followed by eight chapters and six appendices. In this work Bristow aims to present an alternative model of how Christian-Muslim dialogue can be undertaken by replacing the common thematic approach with one that has what he describes as a “scriptural narrative focus” centered on the figure of Abraham (2). To that end, his method highlights the relationship between narrative and worldview by paying attention to the polarities or pairings that underscore the different attributes, principles, and tendencies in the ways the texts of the two religions present and interpret Abraham. Part of Bristow’s research entailed interviewing a group of Turkish imams in order “to consider more deeply the qur’ānic Abraham narrative and the Islamic worldview which these stories articulate, especially as they are retold in Turkey” (1). In this way, he situates his work at the intersection of two fields that have sometimes had a testy relationship: contextual missiology and comparative theology.

Review of John A.C. Brown, Misquoting Muhammad

Misquoting Muhammad is a compelling read. It is an ambitious and well-conceived effort by Jonathan A.C. Brown to explore the rich intellectual and legal tradition of Sunni Islam. The work demonstrates that Brown is one of the few contemporary scholars capable of working comfortably with both the pre-modern juristic tradition and the modern Islamic world and of navigating its many contentious debates. Although he analyzes a period extending over 1400 years, Brown’s writing remains engaging and accessible throughout, although a stronger concluding section may have enabled the reader to appreciate the work’s central arguments or observations. His methodology, in which he takes a set of case studies focusing on particular legal questions, allows the reader to better understand the mechanisms and parameters of the Sunni juristic tradition. This approach also enables Brown to acquaint the reader with both the classical juristic discourse and modern debates on specific topics, thereby presenting the continuities and ruptures between pre-modern and contemporary scriptural hermeneutics.

Review of Navid Kermani, God is Beautiful

Navid Kermani’s God Is Beautiful: The Aesthetic Experience of the Quran is a unique and fascinating contribution to Qurʾanic Studies. The volume is an English translation of Gott ist schön: Das ästhetische Erleben des Koran (2007) by Munich publishing house C.H. Beck, which is in turn a revision of Kermani’s 1997 dissertation conducted at the University of Bonn. In this book, Kermani argues that aesthetic experience of the Qurʾan has, since the time of early reports about its initial reception, been inextricable from the text as a whole. In focusing on aesthetic reception, Kermani studies the relations between the Qurʾan and its listeners, “[seeing the Qurʾan] as a structure—not as a concrete object but as a system of relations. The relations discussed in this book are those between the text and its recipients. No text exists … except in such relations” (ix). In doing so, Kermani brings an innovative hermeneutic strategy to the field of Qurʾanic Studies, recentering the understanding of the text, in addition to providing a new method for reading reports of qurʾanic reception in the early tradition.