Uṣūl al-Tafsīr The Sciences and Methodology of the Quran By Recep Doğan (Clifton, NJ: Tughra Books, 2014. 347 pages.)

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Walid Ghali

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Abstract

“The best among you is the one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it to others”
is a well-known hadith on the superiority of the Qur’an mentioned in Ṣaḥīḥ
al-Bukhārī and many other hadith collections. When one needs to teach something
to others, it is crucial to have a well-grounded knowledge of the subject
to be taught. More importantly, it is necessary to know the methodology of
obtaining this knowledge. In the field of Qur’an studies, ‘ilm al-tafsīr provides
the infrastructure for the interpreter who is preparing himself/herself to interpret
the Qur’an. In addition, uṣūl al-tafsīr provides him/her with an almost
step-by-step guide in this regard.
This book Uṣūl al-Tafsīr could only have been written by an author with
profound experience in the history and exegesis of the Qur’an in particular, as
well as with a great deal of familiarity and comprehensive understanding of
the various Islamic disciplines. In his valuable work, Recep Doğan, a lecturer
of Islamic sciences and civilizations at Australia’s Charles Stuart University,
attempts to fill a gap in the literature of the methodology of Qur’anic exegesis.
In doing so, he provides detailed accounts on the history of uṣūl al-tafsīr and
combines both classical and modern Qur’anic exegetical approaches.
In addition to the forward by Ismail Albayrak (pp. xiii-xv), the book consists
of twelve chapters, a glossary, and a bibliography. The chapters deals
with various topics, such as the history and development of Qur’anic exegesis,
the revelation (waḥy), the transmission of the Qur’anic revelation, the
i‘jāz of the Qur’an, the history of interpretation and interpreters, occasions
of the revelation (asbāb al-nuzūl); clear and ambiguous verses (muḥkam and
mutashābih), the notion of abrogation (naskh), Qur’anic readings and the notion
of the seven letters, Qur’anic stories, esoteric interpretation, textual
analysis, and translation of the Qur’an. The work also contains detailed information
on the history of the methodology of exegesis, such as the Makkan
and Madinian parts of the Qur’an.
The author contends that the literature in the field of uṣūl al-tafsīr is limited
in both number and approaches (p. xiv). He also criticizes the approach
of some orientalists in this field, which is, according to him, neither satisfying
nor flawless. However, the book does not include any evidence to support this
claim. Nevertheless, Doğan does state that those who want to interpret ...

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