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Understanding the Qur’anic Miracle Stories in the Modern Age

ISRA YAZICIOGLU
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/j.ctt32b9gn
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  • Book Info
    Understanding the Qur’anic Miracle Stories in the Modern Age
    Book Description:

    he Qur’an contains many miracle stories, from Moses’ staff turning into a serpent to Mary conceiving Jesus as a virgin. In When the Staff Turns into a Serpent, Isra Yazicioglu offers a glimpse of the ways in which meaningful implications have been drawn from these apparently strange narratives, both in the pre-modern and modern era. It fleshes out a fascinating medieval Muslim debate over miracles, and connects its insights with early and late modern turning points in Western thought as well as contemporary Qur’anic interpretation. Building on an apparent tension within the Qur’an and analyzing crucial cases of classical and modern Muslim engagement with these miracle stories, this book illustrates how a site of conflict between faith and reason, or revelation and science, can become a site of fruitful exchange This book is a distinctive contribution to a new trend in Qur’anic Studies in that it reveals the presence of insightful Qur’anic interpretation outside of the traditional line-by-line commentary genre, by engaging with the works of Ghazali, Ibn Rushd and Said Nursi. Moreover, focused as it is on the case of miracle stories, the book also goes beyond these specific passages to reflect more broadly on the issue of Qur’anic hermeneutics. It notes the connections between literal and symbolic approaches, and highlights the importance of looking at reception history of the Quran through the lens of “pragmatic” hermeneutics.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-06256-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION
    (pp. x-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION: THE QURʾANIC MIRACLE STORIES: A PUZZLING MOTIF?
    (pp. 1-12)

    This book was born out of a casual conversation that first puzzled and then intrigued me. Years ago, I was talking to one of my relatives, and the topic of the virgin birth story came up. My aunt made a remark that has stayed with me since. She said, “I believe in this miracle narrated in the Qurʾan, but I must admit that if a pregnant woman comes to me now and says, ‘No man touched me but I am pregnant,’ it will be very difficult for me to believe her.” I was taken aback. At first, I thought that...

  6. PART 1 A MEDIEVAL MUSLIM DEBATE
    • 1 IN DEFENSE OF A LITERAL READING OF MIRACLES: GHAZALI’S CASE FOR CONTINGENCY AND GRACE
      (pp. 15-42)

      Ghazali (Abū Ḥāmid Muhammad al-Ghazālī), born in Tus, Persia, in 1058, is arguably one of the greatest scholars of classical Islam. He has had a major influence on various aspects of the tradition. Islamic theology, for instance, is divided into two periods—before and after Ghazali (al-mutaqaddimūnandal-mutaʾakhkhirūn). Similarly, Islamic mysticism gained new impetus through Ghazali, and Islamic jurisprudence incorporated formal logic through his works. In addition to his immense contribution to classical Muslim tradition, Ghazali had some influence in medieval Europe, where he became known as Algazel. More important, his thought remarkably anticipates a number of turning points...

    • 2 A CAUTIOUS APPROACH TO MIRACLE STORIES: IBN RUSHD’S CASE FOR RATIONALISM AND DIVINE WISDOM
      (pp. 43-68)

      Abu al-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn Rushd (d. 1198), also known in the Latin West as Averroes, was one of the major thinkers of medieval Islam. In addition to writing on philosophy, he composed works on Islamic jurisprudence and on medicine. Moreover, he served as a judge in the Islamic courts of Spain and as a physician for the caliphs. Among his various contributions, his commitment to Aristotelian philosophy and his attempts at reconciling it with the Qurʾan are central. He gave utmost importance to logic and science, which he believed were crystallized in “Master” Aristotle’s works, and interpreted the Qurʾan in...

  7. PART 2 REFRAMING THE DEBATE ON MIRACLES IN MODERN TERMS
    • 3 DAVID HUME ON EMPIRICISM, COMMON SENSE, AND MIRACLES
      (pp. 71-91)

      David Hume (1711–1776) was a Western thinker whose views on epistemology as well as philosophy of religion have left a crucial mark on modern thought. Known more as a historian than as a philosopher during his lifetime, Hume’s fame grew immensely after his death. He is regarded as the final major British empiricist, after John Locke (d. 1704) and Bishop George Berkeley (d. 1753). Hume’s commitment to the empirical method and science was coupled with an incisive critique of rationalism, a critique that had a significant effect on Western philosophy and made him “the first post-sceptical philosopher of the...

    • 4 CHARLES S. PEIRCE ON PRAGMATISM, SCIENCE, AND MIRACLES
      (pp. 92-120)

      It is a great thing for the field of philosophy when a well-trained scientist becomes devoted to its study. Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1913), arguably the best American philosopher to date, represents such an immense gain: with an advanced degree in chemistry from Harvard, years of scientific practice at the U.S. Coast Survey, and an early kindled interest in philosophy and logic, Peirce contributed to contemporary philosophy in various fruitful ways. Hookway aptly sums up Peirce’s rich intellectual legacy:

      [Peirce] is best known to the wider philosophical community for his writings about the nature of truth and for the papers...

  8. PART 3 CONTEMPORARY CONNECTIONS
    • 5 SAID NURSI’S CONTEMPORARY READING OF QURʾANIC MIRACLE STORIES
      (pp. 123-163)

      Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1877–1960) was an important Muslim exegete and thinker whose writings and public engagements reflected a deep concern for interpreting the Qurʾan in the modern age. Nursi’s lifetime spanned the final decades of the Ottoman Empire, its collapse and dissolution after the First World War, and the first thirty-seven years of the nascent secular Turkish Republic, which constrained religious freedom, especially until the 1950s. Nursi lived in an era during which the global Muslim community, with whom he had a strong sense of solidarity, faced major intellectual and political challenges, including colonization, modern criticisms of religious belief,...

  9. CONCLUSION: QURʾANIC HERMENEUTICS IN THE MODERN AGE
    (pp. 164-176)

    Familiarity is risky. It may bring the illusion that we have comprehended the world around us. By breaking into such familiarity, miracle stories can invite the reader into a world of wonder, gratitude, and discovery. Yet the miracle stories themselves, and the Qurʾanic text that contains them, can also become too familiar. This book was meant to make such narratives worthy of note once again by highlighting their potentially far-reaching repercussions. Indeed, the case of miracle stories in the Qurʾan discloses the complexity of scriptural interpretation in the modern age. By analyzing samples from Qurʾanic reception history and connecting them...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 177-200)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 201-208)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 209-222)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 223-223)