The history of Dominican printing which brought the sacred texts back to Chaldean Christians in the nineteenth century
An Iraqi priest denounces: the government in Baghdad will not make room for minorities
The golden age of a city beyond compare in the narrative of an Arab writer of the twelfth century
The rivalry among holy cities, Khomeini’s doctrine opposed to ayatollah al-Sistani’s quietism: how the cracks in the Shi’ite front affect the fight against ISIS
The fragile coalition that is waging war on the “Caliph” is made up of Iraqi special forces, Shiite, Kurdish, Yazidi and Christian militias, and has international support
While the Coptic Church expressed satisfaction, within the Coptic community itself there are those who believe that the text brought no improvement
After the excesses of Salafi and Jihadist Islam, an ancient Muslim spiritual movement, rooted in tradition, regains space in Algerian society
From Naguib Mahfouz to Muhammad al-Bisati, the narrative of power, oppressions, revolutions and counter-revolutions goes through the pages of great novels
For months the Coptic Christians in Egypt have asked for non-discriminatory regulation of the construction of places of worship
"It is as if prayer and worship by Christians were crimes," Pope Tawadros says
The national “values” that a certain consensus claims are impervious to terrorism now sound empty, and nobody knows what secularism means anymore
The time of gray is over. Only black and white remain, for and against violence
The modern era has witnessed the re-emergence of a strongly literalist approach to Scripture that emphasises certain understanding handed down by the tradition to the detriment of other, equally valid readings. Those who adopt the textualist method seem to believe that it provides the highest degree of certainty as to the text’s “meaning.” Others maintain that it is necessary to consider the context in which Muslims are living.
The Muslims’ Holy Book is a “mirror-book:” the meanings promoted by the exegetes lie not in the text but, rather, in an interaction between the text and the exegetes’ own experience. Even when the legal rules do find a foundation in its verses, they are not obtained by way of a simple reading. The prohibition against wine demonstrates this quite clearly: the exegetes reorganize the text of the Qur’an after reworking it and then, relying on external data, they propose an interpretation.
It is a fundamental principle of Shi‘ite exegesis that the imam is the only person who may legitimately interpret the sacred Text, having been chosen and inspired by God for this purpose. Indeed, according to a saying attributed to ‘Alī, the Qur’an “does not speak in a language; it needs its own interpreter.” The latter can only be an infallible imam, just as the Prophet was. At the purely literal level, without the imam’s hermeneutics, the Book does not mean anything; it is a “mute Qur’an.” It is the imam who renders it intelligible and it is for this reason that he is called the “speaking Qur’an.
The first glimmerings of an interpretation of the Qur’an that goes beyond the text’s immediate meaning can already be glimpsed in the works of the first exegetes and the imams in the Prophet’s family. Yet it was primarily the birth of a specific way of knowledge, Sufism, that started a long tradition of spiritual and esoteric interpretation: an inexhaustible well-spring, fed just as much by the text as by the Sufi tradition, which has always sought the source of its inspiration in the Revelation.
The theory of abrogation of the Qur’an by the Qur’an itself has a long history in Islamic tradition and continues to find wide-ranging currency in preaching nowadays. A literary analysis of the text shows the theory to be without foundation, however. It is thus a total nonsense when, by virtue of a manifestly erroneous traditional interpretation, this theory is exploited nowadays by some people in order to abrogate all the Qur’an’s open, tolerant verses in favour of the most combative and exclusivist ones
“It’s Voltaire’s fault. It’s Rousseau’s fault,” sang Gavroche, the street urchin in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. In an era when the great narratives are over and “jihad is the only cause on the market,”1 one is more likely to hear that it is the Qur’an’s fault.
Salafis and their readings of the sources are not as straightforward as they may seem, because the text does not necessarily result in a clear-cut and obvious interpretation. Even within the most violent religious extremists current there are important differences. And old Al-Qaeda, Scriptures to hand, does not see eye to eye with Isis on many issues.
It is called tafsīr ‘ilmī in Arabic and it breaks a centuries-old tradition dominated by a tendency to absolutize the interpretation established by the Forebears. Freeing itself from the traditional commentary, this type of exegesis favours readings that also borrow from other disciplines and seeks (with bizarre results) to demonstrate that the contents of the Revelation are in agreement with the discoveries of science