Dissertation Summary: On Two Modern Approaches to Science in the Qur’an

By Majid Daneshgar*

Majid Daneshgar recently completed his PhD in Religion under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Rippin and Dr. Zulkifli Mohd Yusof. Daneshgar’s dissertation examines two modern approaches to science in the Qur’an. Tantawi Jawhari (1862-1940) and Maurice Bucaille (1920-1998) were two scholars who established novel, scientific exegetical methods that have spread throughout the Muslim world and the West.

Some academics have praised them while others have critiqued or even labeled them dreamers or charlatans because of their aspirations. A large number of people, however, (Muslim and others) have discussed these two scholars’ methodologies and the way they defined Qur’anic phrases from a scientific perspective. Tantawi interpreted some Qur’anic verses without explaining them in a scientific manner, whereas Bucaille particularly insisted on empirical approaches. It seems neither of them aimed to prove the inimitability of the Qur’an through their works, but they did have different aspirations.

Therefore, this study takes into account Tantawi and Bucaille’s views concerning science and explores their motives for invoking the realm of science. An additional reason for analyzing their methods in this thesis is to further explore the definition of science. The essential question is: Was science a tool they employed to help comprehend the Qur’an or a vehicle by which to convey their own perspectives?

Furthermore, the author tries to create a link between the Aristotelian definition of knowledge and nature, the Abbasid era concept of ‘ilm, Ghazali’s idea of ma‘rifah, and modern views towards science and education. This thesis also endeavors to display that the image depicted of the work of Tantawi and Bucaille is something other than what has previously been discussed, because there are many social and personal reasons behind their views towards science in the Qur’an.

Recently, individual parts of the thesis were published as articles: “Behind the Scenes: A Review of Western Figures’ Supportive Comments Regarding the Qur’an” in al-Bayan journal of Qur’an and Hadith, vol.11, no.2, Dec 2013; and “French Journals: A bridge for the Presence of Muslims in Europe in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” in Ayeneh-ye- Pazoohesh, vol.24, 2, 2013 (in Persian).

*Majid Daneshgar is the international editor and review editor of al-Bayan journal of Qur’an and Hadith, which is published by Brill, Netherlands. The journal publishes articles in English, Arabic and Malay in all domains of Qur’anic and hadith studies. For more information contact albayanjournal@um.edu.my.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2014. All rights reserved.

New book: Understanding the Qurʾanic Miracle Stories in the Modern Age

The beginning of this month saw the release of the third book in Penn State University Press’s series, Signifying (on) Scriptures, called Understanding the Qurʾanic Miracle Stories in the Modern Age by Dr. Isra Yazicioglu.

The book explores the details and implications of the Qur’an’s miracle stories. It is divided into three parts: “A Medieval Muslim Debate,” “Reframing the Debate on Miracles in Modern Terms,” and “Contemporary Connections.” In her analysis, the author engages the works of Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, and Said Nursi, among others. 

Yazicioglu is Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. Joseph’s University.

Those interested in this new work can access its full description and its table of contents, as well as order the volume, here.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2013. All rights reserved.