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On the Subtleties of Method and Style in the Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt of al-Qushayrī

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Abstract The Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt of Abū l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī (d. 465/1072) is a comprehensive, line-by-line mystical commentary on the Qur’an. In this article, an analysis of the comments on the first four sūras demonstrates how Qushayrī crafted a distinctively cohesive way of responding to the Qur’anic text that avoids any sharp or simplistic division of the exoteric and the mystical. This is partly accomplished by not addressing verses in an overly selective way, and partly by mirroring the shifting modes of discourse and content of the Qur’an itself. Qushayrī adeptly incorporates into his commentary the intellectual discourses of his time in exegesis, theology and mysticism, and then expands his rhetorical repertoire with the more emotive and aesthetic dimensions of poetry, rhymed prose and metaphor. Qushayrī’s methodology allows him to use tangible human experience to explain what might otherwise seem like otherworldly or abstract ideas, and to provide concrete advice for mystical aspirants. The esoteric and exoteric are seamlessly interwoven in his commentary through the ethos of adab, understood as a hermeneutic, a sensibility, and a life strategy for those seeking nearness with the divine.

Affiliations: 1: Sarah Lawrence College USA


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