Tag Archives: Islamic theology

The anthropological turn in Islamic legal interpretation

On July 23-24, 2016, the Zentrum für Islamische Theologie at the University of Tübingen did a superb job of organizing and hosting a conference on “Islamic Theology – Past, Present and Future: Global Challenges and Prospective Synergies in the Academic Study of Islam.” My presentation dealt once again with the Indonesian thinker Aksin Wijaya, arguing that his explicitly anthropocentric epistemology reflects a broader shift in Islamic thought that opens up new conversations between historical and confessional scholarship on Islam:

“The Anthropological Turn in Islamic Legal Interpretation.” Islamic Theology – Past, Present and Future: Global Challenges and Prospective Synergies in the Academic Study of Islam, University of Tübingen, July 24, 2016.

Here is a pdf of the paper, as delivered. It was written for oral presentation, without documentation. I plan to use it as the framework for a published article incorporating aspects of several papers I have given recently on Qur’anic hermeneutics in contemporary Indonesia.

Can Qur’anic Interpretation Be Both Practically Adequate and Theologically Principled? Some Instructive Historical Examples…

Harith Bin Ramli and Ramon Harvey hosted a warm, lively, and coherent symposium on theologies of revelation at the Cambridge Muslim College. It was a beautiful and memorable day, epitomized by this image of Shahrur and Mohammed:

Sahrur and Mohammed at CMC symposium

My presentation was a reflective pause, looking back on my previous work on classical legal hermeneutics, drawing in my recent readings in Indonesian Qur’anic hermeneutics, and pondering some of the intellectual challenges and moral dangers of thinking systematically about revelation:

“Can Qur’anic Interpretation Be both Practically Adequate and Theologically Principled? Some Instructive Historical Examples of the Delicate Connection between Hermeneutical Theories and Doctrines of Divine Speech.” From Revelation to Scripture: A Symposium on Divine Speech and Prophetic Inspiration in Islam, Cambridge Muslim College, Cambridge, England, September 12, 2015.

Here is a pdf of the full paper, which I summarized at the symposium. The new material it contains about the Indonesian thinker Aksin Wijaya was previously discussed at the International Qur’anic Studies Association in 2014, and hopefully will be included in a future publication (perhaps a volume stemming from the Cambridge Muslim College symposium).

Another image from the day–Farrokh and Ramon during one of the many coffee breaks:

Farrokh and Ramon at CMC symposium

Reenchanting the Qur’an: Hermeneutical Applications of the Ashʿarī Concept of God’s Eternal Speech

This paper, presented at IQSA in 2014, compares how several modern Muslim thinkers have made use of the Ashʿarī theological doctrine that God’s speech is eternal but its expression is temporal. Special attention is paid to Aksin Wijaya, an Indonesian thinker who employs a version of the Ashʿarī doctrine to support his creative new approach to Qur’anic interpretation.

“Reenchanting the Qurʾān: Hermeneutical Applications of the Ashʿarī Concept of God’s Eternal Speech.” International Qur’anic Studies Association, San Diego, November 23, 2014.

Here is a pdf of the oral presentation version of the paper, without documentation. This was the first of several conference presentations about Aksin Wijaya and other contemporary scholars of Qur’anic hermeneutics in Indonesia. Future publications will incorporate some of the material presented here, with full documentation.

`Abd al-Jabbar on Rational Interpretation of Scripture

David Vishanoff, translator. “ʿAbd al‑Jabbār on Rational Interpretation of Scripture.” In Islamic Theological Themes: A Primary Source Reader, ed. John Renard, 58–65. Oakland: University of California Press, 2014.

This published translation is an excerpt from `Abd al-Jabbar’s Mutashabih al-Qur’an. It explains why rational considerations necessarily govern the interpretation of scripture.

Al-Suyuti on the occasions of revelation of Qur’anic verses

David Vishanoff, translator. “Suyūṭī on the Occasions of Revelation.” In Islamic Theological Themes: A Primary Source Reader, ed. John Renard, 51–58. Oakland: University of California Press, 2014.

This published translation is an excerpt from al-Suyuti’s famous book on the Qur’anic Sciences, al-Itqan fi `ulum al-Qur’an. It assesses how knowing the “occasions of revelation” (asbab al-nuzul) affects the interpretation of Qur’anic verses.