Review of Gabriel Said Reynolds, Allah: God in the Qur’an

Review of Gabriel Said Reynolds, Allah: God in the Qur’an

Gabriel Said Reynolds’ most recent book, Allah: God in the Qur’an, explores Allah’s characterization in the Qurʾān through His relationship with creation. Reynolds frames his discussion around the dichotomy of divine mercy and justice (or vengeance) in the Qurʾān; but the book is more than an analysis of the Qur’ān’s presentation of these characteristics. Rather, the book offers a wide-ranging introduction to theological debates framed by the Qurʾān, with a methodological intervention by Reynolds as to how to reconcile these dichotomous elements and the contentious debates they engender.

Review Abdur Raheem Kidwai, God’s Word, Mans Interpretations

Colleagues and fellow scholars of Islam, how many times have you been asked about the best English translations of the Qurʾān and how many times have you mumbled in response something along the lines of “Arberry is good, there is Yusuf Ali, Abdel Haleem’s is more recent I guess”? Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s God’s Word, Man’s Interpretations is the book to read for a better, more learned answer concerning the English translations of the Qurʾān that have appeared since 2000. Kidwai’s admirable effort in this book can truly spare the scholars of Islam the time of sifting through the ever-growing numbers of recent translations—that is, if one can look past his unflinching policing on behalf of the Sunni-Jamāʿī interpretations of the Qurʾān and his unapologetic disdain for every other approach to the Qurʾān including what he calls “the Orientalist enterprise” (142).

Review of Mark Durie, The Qur’an and Its Biblical Reflexes

Mark Durie’s The Qur’an and Its Biblical Reflexes is a highly original work and a substantial contribution to the field of Qurʾānic Studies. He engages with a great deal of secondary literature, but his study is also based on extensive direct reading of the text of the Qurʾān itself, so there is nothing second-hand about his approach. He presses everything he uses into the service of a very distinctive argument, so that what he says of the Qurʾān could also be said of his own work: it marches to the beat of its own drum. Durie writes clearly and engagingly, regularly re-stating his aims and recapitulating his developing argument.

Review of David Hollenberg, Beyond the Qur’an

Beyond the Qurʾān is a discussion of taʾwīl, allegorical or symbolic interpretation of the Qurʾān, based mainly on Ismāʿīlī works from the tenth and eleventh centuries. It contains five chapters and a conclusion. Chapter 1: Competing Islands of Salvation (1–35) is an introduction to the Ismāʿīlī daʿwah (missionary organization). Chapter 2: Ismāʿīlī Taʾwīl and Daʿwa Literature (36–52) is an introduction to Ismāʿīlī works on taʾwīl in general, showing that they were written mainly by dāʿīs (missionaries) for other dāʿīs and were designed to teach them how to educate their charges and to justify Ismāʿīlī doctrines. Chapter 3: Rearing (53–78) describes the process of initiation of Ismāʿīlī acolytes, emphasizing their introduction into a realm of secret knowledge. Chapter 4: Beyond the Qurʾān: Prophecy, Scriptures, Signs (79–99) discusses prophecy and scripture as common themes of taʾwīl. Chapter 5: The Torah’s Imams (100–125) addresses taʾwīl based on the stories of the prophets of the biblical tradition in particular. Conclusions are presented in the Epilogue: After the End of Days—from Imminent to Immanent Apocalypticism (126–129). The core of the work is chapter 5, which is based primarily on Sarāʾir wa-asrār al-nuṭaqāʾ, a work of taʾwīl based on tales of the prophets (qiṣaṣ al-anbiyāʾ) and composed by the dāʿī Jaʿfar b. Manṣūr al-Yaman (d. 347/958). The work presents three main arguments, an overarching historical argument about the Ismāʿīlī daʿwah and other similar movements, and two more focused arguments on the nature of Ismāʿīlī taʾwīl and its use of biblical material.

Review of Hina Azam, Sexual Violation in Islamic Law

Hina Azam’s study not only makes an incisive contribution to the literature on Islamic penal law, but engages with a much wider set of issues involving Muslim jurists’ conceptualization of marriage and of moral and legal personhood. While the body of the book meticulously examines fiqh texts dating from the formative period through approximately the twelfth century C.E., the project is framed in the introduction and conclusion as a constructive response to the introduction of formally “sharīʿah-based” penalties for illicit sex in a number of countries since the late twentieth century.

Review of Anne-Sylvie Boisliveau, Le Coran par lui-même

Among the recent rash of publications on the Qurʾan, the work of Anne-Sylvie Boisliveau stands out as much for its scientific quality as for its originality. It is true that the question of the auto-referentiality of the Qurʾan—“what the Qurʾan says about itself”—has already been treated partially, notably by Daniel Madigan,[1] Stefan Wild,[2] and several others, but this is the first time that the subject is studied in all its fullness, precision, and depth to the point that it leads the reader to a renewed vision of the Qurʾan both globally and in its details. The work is the fruit of a two-part doctoral thesis: the first part treats the subject from a synchronic perspective, taking the Qurʾan as a whole; the second part adopts a diachronic viewpoint and takes into account the chronological development of the constitution of the qurʾanic text. Only the first part appears in this book; the second is reserved for publication in a near future. This book, therefore, is deliberately situated within the current of synchronic studies of the qurʾanic text which goes back to the ancient exegetical principle of explaining the Qurʾan by the Qurʾan, but here the subject is treated with all the rigor of the modern critical method.

Review of Keith Small, Qur’ans: Books of Divine Encounter

Following in the wake of volumes such as François Déroche’s The Abbasid Tradition: Qurʾans of the 8th to 10th Centuries (2006) about the Khalili collection in London, and Colin Baker’s Qurʾan Manuscripts: Calligraphy, Illumination, Design (2007) about the British Library’s collection of Qurʾan manuscripts, this little volume neatly encapsulates the breadth of the Bodleian Library’s collection of the same in Oxford. Arranged more or less chronologically, the reader is taken on a tour of the Bodleian’s Qurʾan collection—although with one or two detours to the Ashmolean Museum’s collection (also in Oxford), and one detour to the David Collection in Copenhagen.