Click on the image to view a playlist of 10 videos recorded in the Al-Azhar Mosque in June 2013. Sohaib Saeed, graduate of Al-Azhar University and editor of this website, has introduced the chapters and themes of a seminal book in Quranic studies by the late Sh. Muhammad Abdullah Draz. Feedback is welcome as always.
By Sohaib Saeed
Originally published by 1st Ethical
O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful (ḥalāl) and wholesome (ṭayyib) and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy. (Qur’an 2:168)
And eat of what God has provided for you, lawful and wholesome. And fear God, in Whom you are believers. (Q 5:88)
Then eat of what God has provided for you, lawful and wholesome. And be grateful for the favour of God, if you do worship Him. (16:114)
After quoting these verses from the Qur’an, which – along with similar verses – call upon human beings and believers to eat what is lawful and wholesome, I am moved to share the following reflections: Continue reading
“If it weren’t for their political problems and constant fighting between each other, the Muslims would have been on the moon by the 1400s.”
Such was the statement made by a non-Muslim professor in a 400-level undergraduate class on the history of science. It seems that the rate of discovery and advancement in science achieved by the Muslims was quite impressive and has yet to be replicated. What was it that they were doing that allowed for their fast progress?
The teacher in me immediately thinks about their education system, and the neuroscientist in me wants to examine the factors involved in shaping the brains of such a civilization. Interestingly, many Muslim religious scholars will say something about how the Muslims were the leaders when the Qur’an was the centre of their education, and only when they abandoned the Qur’an that they lost their reign. The amazing thing about this is that while Muslim religious scholars are typically talking about spiritual and moral realities, there is actually a material reality to what they’re saying, which takes place in the brain. Continue reading
By Sohaib Saeed
Thematic exegesis (al-tafsir al-mawḍū‘i) is an emerging field in Quranic studies, yet it has forerunners in the shapes of “tafsir by the Qur’an itself”, polysemy (wujūh wa naẓā’ir) and collections of “legal verses” (āyāt al-aḥkām), metaphors (majāz al-Qur’ān), abrogation (al-nāsikh wal-mansūkh) and potentially difficult passages (gharīb al-Qur’ān). It has been described as the logical next step in presentation of the Qur’an’s teachings, and thus the need of our times.
There are a number of recent works which may properly be considered to fall within the genre of thematic tafsir, yet there are many which use this term in their titles – or contain the formula: “X or Y in the Qur’an” – while failing to apply a clear method and/or misapplying this title. There is yet space on the Islamic bookshelf for a major encyclopaedia of Quranic themes, based on a unified methodology.
Scholars of al-Azhar University, particularly in its department of Tafsir and Quranic Sciences (Faculty of Theology), have developed a framework within which such research may be performed and evaluated. Although the term “thematic commentary” has been used in reference to explanations of individual surahs based on their unifying themes, what we intend here is the study of a particular topic in the light of all relevant verses throughout the Book.
The purpose of this short article is to summarise this Azhari methodology in order to encourage its use and further development. As appropriate, observations will be made concerning the adaptation of such methodology for researchers writing in English or other languages, such that they may fulfil the need for students of the Qur’an the world over.
From the archives:
In advance of a Quranica recitation and lecture tour featuring various reciters as well as Dr Kristina Nelson (author of The Art of Reciting the Qur’an), Sohaib Saeed appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme on 26th February 2006 to explain the phenomenon of Quranic recitation.
Also read: The Art of Qur’an Recitation
From The Story of Faith: Between Philosophy, Science and the Qur’an – by Nadīm al-Jisr
This fascinating and enigmatic book takes the reader on a journey along with its protagonist, Ḥayrān ibn al-Aḍ‘af the Punjabi, through the storms of doubt to the shores of certainty, at the hands of a wise scholar by the name of Abū al-Nūr al-Mawzūn. The book’s author, Sh. Nadīm al-Jisr (d. 1980) – former mufti of Tripoli and Northern Lebanon – has succeeded in presenting the essential matters of faith in a literary style that appeals to the heart, mind and imagination while addressing concerns of the modern seeker of truth. We hope that this work will see the light in translation before long.
The following selection of verses is presented by the shaykh to his student after a good part of the journey has already been traversed, saying:
“The verses of the Qur’an are concerned with a number of purposes: First: inviting to God and establishing the proofs of His existence, uniqueness, knowledge, power, will, care, mercy, and all other attributes of perfection. Second: promises encouraging good deeds and warnings away from sin. Third: emphasising the coming resurrection and judgement. Fourth: rulings concerning worship and dealings. Fifth: practical wisdom for life. Sixth: promoting the best of morals and manners. Seventh: stories and narratives that reinforce the previous six categories.
“Yet the most important of all of these, and the greatest in the sight of Allah, is the first – because belief in God is the origin and foundation of everything else. That is why, when you turn the pages of the Qur’an, you find these verses guiding us to knowledge of Allah in every chapter, and indeed they may appear repeatedly in a single chapter.”
The shaykh then explains that he is presenting this selection to Ḥayrān (and the readers) of verses that establish these proofs of the divine presence and attributes, guiding us to recognise the wisdom of Allah’s creation. They are ordered according to their time of revelation, “Because I want you to imagine yourself present at their era of revelation so you may appreciate how the guidance unfolded and led the people through these evidences pointing to God. That way, your recitation of the verses will be more effective for your soul, and you will be better placed to grasp the Quranic method of guidance.”
After reciting before his teacher, Ḥayrān declares that it was as though he had never noticed these verses in his previous readings of the Qur’an, which were mainly for blessings and not for study and reflection. The shaykh advises him not to suffice with reading them a few times; rather, he must internalise them until they become the lens through which he observes the signs scattered throughout Creation.
Below we have presented the Quranic passages (numbering over 150) and added their references, along with translations adapted from Abdullah Yusuf Ali and others. Naturally, translations have their shortcomings and a deeper appreciation of the verses would come from studying works of commentary. As numerous Muslim scholars have advocated a return to the Qur’an to establish and refresh Islamic faith and creed, the following may be considered a contribution to this effort.