February 3, 2013 By Shauqeen Mizaj

English Readers’ Roads to the Quran

IQRA bookshelf

One of the major arguments of all times is that we have not, nor ever, exhausted interpretation. The Quran should show light for all times and for all spaces. However, there are questionable assumptions and preconceptions which our selective and, rather, outmoded reading of the Quran made happen. Somehow, classical interpretations of the Quran became as sacred and almost divine as the Quran. Also there is a claim that only those who are well-versed in Arabic can dare to interpret or translate it, which Ziauddin Sardar openly questions in the following words: ‘Native speakers may have an advantage in pronouncing words correctly, but they are in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to struggling to discover the meaning and contemporary relevance of the words and verses.

Following is a bibliography of some English titles that an English speaking student of the Quran can’t dispense with

Fazlur Rahman’s Major Theme of the Quran

Major Themes of the Quran is considered as a classic among numerous works on religious contemplations about the history and themes of the Quran. Richest in content and an excellent read, the book encompasses all aspects of the complex concepts in the holy book like man, nature, prophet hood, revelation, eschatology, Satan and the evil.The book aims to bring to fore the Quranic worldview, a cohesive outlook of life, which a verse-by-verse commentary of the Quran can’t take us to. The author appears unprejudiced in his attempts to present the themes where differences arise. He also believes that Christians can alter the doctrine of the Trinity to be more compatible with the Quran. Concise and clear it’s considered as one of the best works of Rahman and is widely accepted by academics and traditional scholars.

Fazlur rahman was born in 1919 in today’s Pakistan. He is the author of hundreds of articles and 10 books. A prolific writer and an exceptional Islamic scholar, he questioned the historic formulations of Islamic theology and jurisprudence due to his deep respect, appreciation and devotion towards the Islamic tradition. His works have been an inspiration for Islamic scholars for generations. He was the Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor of Islamic Thought at the University of Chicago at the time of his death in July 1988. Major Themes of The Quran is a proof of his Quranic scholarship, of his undying loyalty and yearning to understand the Holy text.
Articles of and on Rahman in interactive :

Toshihiko Izutsu – God and man in the Qur’an, Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Quran

Toshihiko Izutsu explores the Islamic principles and the basic ethical relationship of man to God. Izutsu asserts that, according to the Qur’anic conception, God is of an ethical nature and acts upon man in an ethical way. Izutsu shows that for the Qur’an our ethical response to God’s actions is religion itself. Izutsu explores these themes by employing ethno linguistics, a theory of the interrelations between linguistic cultural patterns, to analyze the semantic structure of major concepts in the Qur’an. Originally published in 1959 as The Structure of the Ethical Terms in the Koran and revised under the current title in 1966 this 2002 reprint makes this classic work of Islamic studies once again available.

Professor Toshihiko Izutsu, was a prominent Japanese scholar and linguist, born in 1914 in Tokyo, japan. He completed the first direct translation of Quran from Arabic to Japanese in 1958 which is well-known for its linguistic accuracy and widely referred by the scholars. He authored around thirty books and written many books and articles in Japanese on Oriental thought and its significance. Fluent in over 30 languages, he has attempted to explain some major ethical and religious concepts in the Qur’an with reference to classical Arabic, tafsir literature and semantics. He died in 1993.

Farid Essack – Qur’an, Liberation and Pluralism: An Islamic Perspective of Interreligious Solidarity Against Oppression; The Qur’an: A Short Introduction; The Qur’an: A User’s Guide

This challenging and unusual work discusses the issues of liberation theology and inter-religious dialogue from the Islamic point of view, focusing on the experience of the multi-religious community of South Africa. In this challenging account, Farid Essack reflects on key Qur’anic passages used in the context of oppression to rethink the role of Islam in a plural society. He exposes how traditional interpretations of the Qur’an were used to legitimize an unjust order, and demonstrates that those very texts used to support religious intolerance, if interpreted within a contemporary socio-historical context, support active solidarity with the religious other for change.

Farid Essack was born in 1959 in Weinberg, Cape Town. He is a South African Muslim scholar, writer, and political activist known for his opposition to Apartheid, his appointment by Nelson Mandela as a gender equity commissioner, and his work for inter-religious dialogue. Essack is currently a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Mahmoud M. Ayoub – Qur’an and Its Interpreters

The collection of two volumes I and II provide the most accessible selection of translations from traditional Quranic commentaries in the English language and an excellent resource for scholars even after so many years. Using commentaries from the classical period through the medieval and modern periods to the present, this book presents the Qur’an as Muslims have understood it and interiorized it throughout its rich exegetical history. This book has been written, not primarily for scholars, but for interested western readers, for students of Islam, and for non-Arabic-speaking Muslims. This work is one of the two volumes, each a reference to a particular part of the Qur’an.

Mahmoud M. Ayoub was born in South Lebanon. He was a recipient of the Kent Doctoral Fellowship and the Canada Council Fellowship. Mahmoud Ayoub is the author of a number of books and a member of IIIT Council of Scholars. He has also been the Chair of IIIT Summer Institute for Scholars for the past three years.

Mona Siddiqui – How to Read the Quran 

Mona Siddiqui considers how the Qur’an has been understood by Muslims in the intellectual traditions of Islam as well as in popular worship. In her book, she explores the complex themes like prophecy, law, sin, and salvation, and what the Qur’an teaches about the particular place of Islam as God’s last revelation in human history. Siddiqui’s central concern is that Muslims must look to the Qur’an to breathe new life into the social and ethical relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Mona Siddiqui is a British Muslim academic born in 1963 in Karachi, Pakistan. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of Arts. Siddiqui is also a regular contributor to Thought for the Day and Sunday on BBC Radio 4, The Times, The Scotsman, The Guardian and Herald. She is currently the Chair of the BBC’s Scottish Religious Advisory Committee.

Amina Wadud – Quran and the Woman

Published in March 1999, this is the first book by Amina Wadud. It contributes a gender-inclusive reading to one of the most fundamental disciplines in Islamic thought, Qu’ranic exegesis. With Qu’ran and Woman, she provides a first interpretive reading by a woman, which validates the female voice in the Qu’ran and brings it out of the shadows. Wadud breaks down specific texts and key words which have been used to limit women’s public and private role, even to justify violence toward Muslim women, revealing that their original meaning and context defy such interpretations. Wadud’s reading of the Qu’ran confirms women’s equality and constitutes legitimate grounds for contesting the unequal treatment that women have experienced historically and continue to experience legally in Muslim communities.

Amina Wadud born on September 25, 1952 is an American scholar of Islam with a progressive focus on Qur’an exegesis. She has addressed mixed-sex congregations, giving a sermon in South Africa in 1994, and leading Friday prayers in the United States in 2005. These actions being contradictory with existing Islamic law triggered not only debates and Muslim juristic discourse about women as imams but also caused attempts to have her dismissed from her position and made her a target of death threats.  Wadud’s research specialties include gender and Qur’anic studies. Wadud has spoken at many universities, grass roots level, government and non-government forums at various gatherings throughout the United States, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe.

Asma Barlas – Believing Women in Islam.

Born in Pakistan in 1950, Asma Barlas was one of the first women to be inducted into the Foreign Service. Her specialties include comparative and international politics, Islam and Qur’anic hermeneutics, and women and gender. In her recent work, she has focused on the way Muslims produce religious knowledge, especially patriarchal exegesis of the Qur’an, a topic she has explored in her book, “Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an. She has also written numerous editorials for The Daily Times, Pakistan.

Beginning with a historical analysis of religious authority and knowledge, Barlas shows how Muslims came to read inequality and patriarchy into the Qur’an to justify existing religious and social structures. Barlas convincingly asserts that the Qur’an affirms the complete equality of the sexes, thereby offering an opportunity to theorize radical sexual equality from within the framework of its teachings. This new view takes readers into the heart of Islamic teachings on women, gender, and patriarchy, allowing them to understand Islam through its most sacred scripture. She goes to the heart of all the important aspects of Quran and the verses which are used to exploit women and attempts to explain and differentiate the inconsistencies that have led to large-scale mis-interpretation and abuse of Quranic precepts.

Abdullah Saeed – The Quran an Introduction

In this book, Abdullah Saeed explores the various themes and aspects of the Quran, the revelation from God, text types, and the influence of Quran in daily life as well as giving an overview of the rich interpretive traditions from the time of the Prophet Muhammad to the present day. This book provides a student-friendly guide to the many ways in which the Qur’an can be read. Designed for both Muslims and Western non-Muslim students, it examines the Qur’an in Western scholarship.

Born in the Maldives, Abdullah Saeed is an active researcher, focusing on one of the most important issues in Islamic thought: the negotiation of text and context, ijtihad and interpretation. He is also the director of the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies (a cooperative initiative of the University of Melbourne, University of Western Sydney, and Griffith University) and co-director of Melbourne’s Centre for Islamic Law and Society. His publications cover Qur’anic hermeneutics, Islam and human rights, Islamic law reform, Islamic finance, Muslim communities in Australia, and Islam and freedom of religion. He has authored and edited numerous works.

Ingrid Mattson – The Story of the Qur’an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life

An essential introductory text for the study of the Qur’an, its content, and its place in Muslim society, it examines the doctrines contained in the Qur’an, providing a comprehensive explanation of their significance to individual Muslims and the societies in which they live. It Surveys the key themes of the Qur’an, it’s most significant historical interpretations, and some of the most significant figures who transmitted and taught the sacred scripture over the centuries and also the influence of Quran on all major aspects of Muslim society, including personal relationships, popular culture, law, art and architecture, political movements, science, and literature.

Ingrid Mattson was born in Canada. From 1987-1988 she lived in Pakistan where she developed and implemented a midwife-training program for Afghan refugee women. She is the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. She has also written numerous articles exploring the relationship between Islamic law and society, gender and leadership issues in contemporary Muslim communities. Dr. Mattson is frequently consulted by media, government and civic organizations and has served as an expert witness.

Ziauddin Sardar – Reading the Quran

In this enlightening and highly readable book, Ziauddin Sardar, one of the foremost Muslim intellectuals of our time, offers a refreshingly new interpretation of the Qur’an. Emphasizing plurality and inclusiveness, Sardar shows how the text is interrelated and interconnected, demonstrates the importance of reading the verses of the Qur’an in the context in which they were revealed, and highlights the relevance of its teachings for today. Argumentative and lively, reading the Qur’an is an insightful guide to understanding the Sacred Text of Muslims in these conflict-ridden and distressing times.

Ziauddin Sardar born in 1951, Pakistan, is a London-based scholar, writer, cultural-critic and public intellectual who specializes in Muslim thought, the future of Islam, futures studies and science and cultural relations. Prospect magazine has named him as one of Britain’s top 100 public intellectuals and The Independent newspaper calls him: ‘Britain’s own Muslim polymath.

(Picture Caption: The bookshelf designed by Peter Gould and Zain Moloobhoy)

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