Some Epistemological and Hermeneutical Dimensions of the Doctrine of the Created Qurʾān

At the 2002 American Academy of Religion meeting in Toronto I presented work I had been doing toward the chapter on the Mu`tazila in my dissertation, which eventually became Chapter 4 of The Formation of Islamic Hermeneutics. This was my first presentation to the AAR, and I was very grateful for respondent Jane McAuliffe’s encouraging comments.

“Some Epistemological and Hermeneutical Dimensions of the Doctrine of the Created Qurʾān.” American Academy of Religion, Toronto, November 25, 2002.

Here is a pdf of the paper.

Here is the abstract:

The Muʿtazilī theologian ʿAbd al‑Jabbār (d. 415/1024) contended that the Ashʿarī defense of God’s eternal speech undermined its epistemological value.  He sought to ensure the Qurʾān’s reliability as a source of law by arguing that it is one of God’s acts, a created piece of evidence from which humans are to infer God’s will.  This view had three consequences for his hermeneutics.  First, the Qurʾān cannot communicate in the same manner as human speech.  Second, interpretation consists in reducing all the different forms of Qurʾānic speech to indicative statements about the legal values of acts.  Third, the Qurʾān cannot be ambiguous.  Contemporary discussions of Islamic legal and interpretive theory have paid little attention to such questions about the nature and function of the language of revelation.

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