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Tradition and Ideology in Contemporary Sunnite Qur'ānic Exegesis: Qur'ānic Commentaries from the Arab World, Turkey and Indonesia and their Interpretation of Q 5:51

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This paper analyses the genre of contemporary tafsīr, focussing on the attitude of modern Sunnite exegetes towards Jews and Christians, on the role of different strands of tradition and of ideological bias for their interpretion of the Qur'ān, and on the similarities and differences between Qur'ānic commentaries from different regions of the Muslim word. It is based on the study of seventeen Qur'ānic commentaries from the Arab World, Indonesia and Turkey that have been published since 1967. The analysis of the authors' background reveals that in recent times, Qur'ānic commentaries tend to be written by professional male 'ulamā' from a provincial background, usually holding a faculty position in Islamic theology. As most exegetes' aim is to stress the timeless relevance of the Qur'ān, few of the commentaries make direct reference to contemporary events. Still, many of them are, in a very modern way, more concerned with providing religious guidance than with explaining the Qur'ān's meaning. However, the “traditional” explanatory approach is still alive, predominantly in commentators who are affiliated with Egypt's Azhar University. Besides the tradition of premodern Sunnite tafsīr, which all commentaries build on to a certain extent, Salafī exegesis is clearly influential in the way in which several commentaries strive at disassociating themselves from Christians and Jews and at building up a dichotomy between “us” and “them” in their exegesis of Q 5:51, which contains an interdiction against taking Christians and Jews as awliyā' (a term that is variably understood as meaning friends, allies, intimates, confidants, helpers, or leaders). It is striking that Arab commentators, for the most part, show a much more hostile attitude towards Christians and Jews than their Indonesian and Turkish counterparts.

Affiliations: 1: Berlin

10.1163/157006010X489801
/content/journals/10.1163/157006010x489801
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/content/journals/10.1163/157006010x489801
2010-04-01
2016-12-10

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