If Salafis are indeed fundamentalists in this sense, how does that relate to their reading of the sources, particularly the Qur’an? Salafis are often described as people who read Islam’s holy book “literally,” but what does that mean in practice? Moreover, does a literal reading of the Qur’an necessarily yield a uniform explanation of the book’s verses in different contexts? This article focuses on Salafi source readings by first dealing with how Salafis view scripture and how this differs from the ideas other Muslims have on their textual sources. It then moves on to two specific Qur’anic verses, namely 8:12 and 47:4, to illustrate that a literal reading of the Qur’an does not necessarily result in a clear-cut and obvious interpretation. As such, it shows that Salafis are not only more diverse in their reading of the sources than some may suggest, but also that the Qur’an is a more dynamic text than many would have us believe.
1Michael Cook’s definition of fundamentalism in his most recent book can quite neatly be applied to Salafis, for example. See Michael Cook, Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic Case in Comparative Perspective (Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2014), pp. 371-380.
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