A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an By Muhammad al-Ghazali (Virginia: The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2000. 804 pages.)

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Mahan Mirza



There has been an increasing interest in the Qur’an’s literary aspects within
the field of Qur’anic studies over the last few years. In the past, western
scholars have devoted a great deal of energy to tracing foreign influences
in the Qur’an or reconstructing the chronology of its verses and surahs.
However, the trend now is shifting toward textual studies, a development
indicated by the proliferation of articles, anthologies, and books on the
Qur’an as a composed literary ornament.
This shift is both refreshing and welcome, particularly for those who
are more interested in understanding the Qur’an in its present form, rather
than learning about its textual history or compilation. Classical Islamic
scholarship developed a body of exegetical material on the Qur’an’s miraculous
nature (i‘jaz) from a literary perspective. This approach has taken a
primarily microscopic linguistic viewpoint (balaghah [eloquence]) of
studying the choice of words and how the verses are constructed.
Although it has always been accepted that the Qur’an’s surahs are distinct
literary pieces with their own style and content, comprehensive attempts
to present entire surahs as thematically independent entities have been rare.
With increasing pressure from western scholars that the Qur’an is incoherent
and haphazardly arranged, a new genre of exegetical material is developing,
both in Muslim and western circles. This new genre focuses upon explaining
why the surah should be considered as a distinctly composed piece with its
own dynamic of sound and meaning. Muhammad al-Ghazali’s work falls
within this emerging category of Qur’anic exegesis.
A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an is a translation from al-
Ghazali’s Al-Tafsir al-Mawdu‘i. The print is well typeset and easily legible,
not cramped together, with a glossy green cover commanding an elegance ...

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