Exploring the Quran: Context and Impact
M.A.S. Abdel Haleem
The teachings, style and impact of the Qur'an have always been matters of controversy, among both Muslims and non-Muslims. But in a contemporary context of intercultural sensitivity, suspicion and crisis, what the Qur'an says and means are perhaps more urgent questions than ever before.
This major new book by one of the world's finest Islamic scholars responds to that urgency. It challenges the image of the Qur'an put forward by many Western and Muslim authors, both classical and modern, particularly by modern extremists from all sides. It argues, furthermore, that the image conjured by these interpreters is highly selective, hastily produced and ignores important parts of the Arabic text of the Qur'an - sometimes even from the same verse from which they are quoting. In fact, the context, style and rhetorical aspects of the Qur'an - aspects which are all too often ignored, with disastrous results - are essential for determining its correct meaning.
Building on his earlier groundbreaking work, Muhammad Abdel Haleem takes issue with the misinterpretation of particular Qur'an verses from whatever quarter. Amongst other topics, he addresses the infamous 'sword' verse, frequently cited as a justification for jihad. He also questions the 'tribute' verse, associated with the Muslim state subjugating Jews and Christians; and the idea of Paradise in the Qur'an, often viewed by the West as emphasising merely physical pleasures, or used by Islamist fighters as their just reward for holy war. The author contests that wrenching the verses out of setting of the whole has led to dangerous ideologies being built on isolated phrases which have then assumed fatal afterlives of their own. This nuanced, holistic reading has vital interfaith ramifications, and will open up entirely new and better-informed aspects of the Qur'an and its significance.
Part I: Teachings
Part II: Style
Part III: Impact