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Daniel A. Madigan

The Qur'ān's Self Image

Writing and Authority in Islam's Scripture

Daniel A. Madigan:
The Qur'ān's Self Image. Writing and Authority in Islam's Scripture.
Princeton – Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2001.
xvi, 236 pages
ISBN 0-691-05950-0
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Princeton University Press:
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Regarding Islam, scholars have been busy with questions like the origins of Islam, its attitude to scripture and so on. The central issue has been the ›book‹, the kitāb, the Qur'ān. Daniel Madigan takes up this key issue in Islam, re-evaluating the readings of the Qur'ān's own declarations about itself, the process of becoming the revealed text. The author himself sums up his project in his introduction: examining »critically the consensus that the Qur'ān intended itself and was intended by the Prophet to be a written corpus of scripture« (8). This is done with the evidence outside the Qur'ān text, from the traditions about its compilations and commentaries, with the evidence within the Qur'ān's own discourse.

Considerable attention is given to the analysis of the range of meaning of the term kitāb, book, writing, doing justice to the variety of its usage. The conception of the kitāb has exerted its influence on the tradition in several ways as shown in the final chapter of the book. The Qur'ān acknowledges that it is speaking a language used by other groups – the Jews of Medina, the scattered Christian ascetics of the desert and others and in the appendix the author deals with the revelations that the Qur'ān perceives as its kin and the communities that cherished them.

Such a study cannot be made in isolation without reference to the earlier scholarship in this field. Without loading the text with too many references the author is selective in his material to focus his viewpoint. He singles out the figure of John Wansbrough to interact and to vindicate his own position with regard to the origins of Islam. In fact he admits his indebtedness to Wansbrough who has »hovered over all this work … either as mentor or as adversary«.

Scholarship of this kind is timely contributing to the much needed dialogue between religions and their followers. In fact the author himself is heading an Institute for the study of religions and cultures at the Gregorian University in Rome, creating space for one another, promoting and training students to interact with various traditions with openness and competence. In this sense, this volume is an invitation to combine textual study and interaction with the living context.

Anand Amaladass

polylog: Forum for Intercultural Philosophy 4 (2003).
Online: http://lit.polylog.org/4/-en.htm
ISSN 1616-2943
external linkSatya Nilayam. Chennai Journal for Intercultural Philosophy 3 (2003), 125-126.
Author: Anand Amaladass, Chennai (India)
© 2003 Author & polylog e.V.
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