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The Humanistic Implications of Qur’an 3:64 for religious pluralism

The neglected humanistic potentials of the Qur’an and its interpretations in classical exegesis (tafsīr) is clearly visible in the commentaries on Qur’an verse 3:64 which calls for a statement of equality or commonness (kalimatin sawā’in) between Muslims and people from other faiths (’Ahl al-Kitāb or People of the Book i.e. people of previous revelations and religious constructs). The majority understood this verse purely as referring to the doctrinal differences between Islam and other religions, but some scholars clearly understood that this verse also had social implications, as the “sawā’in” used in this verse refers to social equality, just as “‘adl” in verse 42:15 refers to equitable justice. Both verses can be compared as both refers to the relation “between us…

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Be Martyrs for Human Rights: The religious humanistic concept of rights (Huquq) in classical Islam as seen in the tafsir of Raghib al-Isfahani (d. 502 AH)

In my academic research on human rights concepts in classical and modern Islamic thought, the Qur’an exegesis of the medieval lexicographer and ethicist Rāghib al-Isfahānī (d. 502 AH/1108 CE) is one of the most fascinating works I have come across. There is little known on Rāghib’s life, but most of his works have survived. He wrote works on Arabic literature and grammar, but he is known especially for two works; his theological-philosophical work on society, Shari’a and human welfare, which has influenced Islamic scholars as al-Ghazālī (d. 1111 CE), and his Qur’anic lexicon (Mufradāt fī gharīb al-Qur’ān) which for centuries has been a general reference for Qur’an scholars and commentators. Lesser known is his Qur’an exegesis (tafsīr) which has partially survived (it…

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Laylat al-Qadr as Sacred Time: Sacred Cosmology in Sunni Kalam and Tafsir

In this analysis we will show how the Islamic tradition constructs a sacred cosmology wherein a sacred space and sacred time are defined. In Sunni Islam only a few sacred spaces on earth exist, the majority belong to the world unseen (alam al- ghayb) and are not accessible for the common human. But when there is a transfer between the seen and unseen world a sacred time is created which is accessible for the whole of creation. The most clear example of the creation of sacred time is Laylat al-Qadr, which is seen as sacred due to the sending down of the Qur’an and fate (qadar). But as the Qur’an doesn’t indicate when this night is, intertextual interpretations were constructed…

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Pluralisme en de islam: Omgaan met interne en externe meerstemmigheid en ambiguiteit

Wie in de diepte duikt van van deze tradities ziet dat voor de islam ook niks menselijks onbekend is. Een korte schets van pluralisme en ambiguïteit in de islam, die als grond kan dienen voor een relativering van de autoriteitsclaims op wat de islam is, en als grond voor de identiteitsvragen rond het moslim-zijn in het westen. Wanneer men praat over pluralisme in relatie tot een religie heeft men het over verschillende vormen van pluralisme; meerstemmigheid binnenin de religie zelf, een intern pluralisme: een meervoudigheid van geaccepteerde en getolereerde stromingen, een meervoudigheid aan geaccepteerde en getolereerde interpretaties en bronnen), en pluralisme buiten de religie, een extern pluralisme: die bepaalt de omgang met andere religies maar ook verketterde stromingen. Arnold Yasin…

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The denial of supernatural sorcery in classical and modern Sunni tafsir of surah al-Falaq: A reflection on underlying constructions

One of the main trends in Islamic modernism is the pursuit of rational exegesis of the Qur’an. As a response to this trend many of these Sunni Islamic modernists have been accused of being neo-Mu’tazilites because of their use of independent reason, the historicizing of the Qur’an, the emphasis on metaphorical interpretation of verses with supernaturalistic contents, the de-emphasizing of tradition, and the use of non-Islamic sources and thought. The similarities between modernists and classical rationalistic schools are seen in their exegeses on verse 113:4 wherein the dominant traditional interpretation of supernatural sorcery is denied. This paper tries to show that the reason why many forms of Islamic modernism are labelled as modern versions of Mu’tazilism is not because modernists…

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