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The Qur’an entered the flow of human history over a twenty-three year period, beginning in 610 CE with the first revelation to Prophet Mu?ammad (?allallahu ‘alayhi wa-sallam) while he was in the cave of ?ira, some fifteen kilometers from the Ka’bah, the ancient House of Allah, built by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma’il, approximately twenty-five hundred years before the event. Its final ayahs were revealed in 632 CE, just a few days before the death of the Prophet in Madinah—the oasis town to where he had migrated in 622 CE. Ever since its revelation, the Qur’an has drawn two fundamental responses from humanity: (i) belief in its Divine origin and in the veracity of the Messenger to whom it was revealed; and (ii) disbelief in its Divine origin and consequently disbelief in the Prophetic status of Mu?ammad.


The first responses to the Qur’an came from those who lived in Makkah and its environs. At that time, most residents of Makkah were either polytheists or atheists. In addition, there were some people who called themselves ?unafa’, the monotheistic followers of the religion of Ibrahim (`alayhis-salam). There were also pockets of Jewish and Christian tribes in northern and central Arabia.


During the twelve-and-a-half-year period of the Prophet’s residence in Makkah after the first revelation (610-622 CE), only about 350 people accepted the Qur’an as a Divine Book.[1] More so than others the leaders of the Prophet’s own powerful clan—Quraysh—rejected it.


They accused him of fabricating the Book, although he did not know how to read or write; they called him a poet (sha`ir), even though he had never composed poetry; a soothsayer (kahin), even though he had never learned that dark art; and a liar (kadhib), even though they themselves had given him the title of a?-?adiq and al-Amin, the truthful and trustworthy. They were deeply troubled by the message of the Qur’an which demanded that they give up their practice of worshipping idols and, instead, worship only one God: Allah, the Creator and the Supreme Sovereign, the Infinitely Clement, the All-Merciful. The Qur’an invited them to reflect on their own creation and on the creation of the heavens and the earth, the movement of planets and stars, the alternation of the day and the night, and numerous other observable phenomena in and around them in order to ascertain for themselves that this cosmos and all that it contains could not have come into existence without a Creator and could not sustain itself without Him. In distinct contrast to their beliefs, the Qur’an explained its message of Taw?id, the Unicity-Oneness of the Creator, in a sublime language that surpassed everything they had ever heard. It provided proofs for the impossibility of the existence of more than one God. It demanded that they give up idolatry and instead worship only Allah, cease their practice of burying alive their infant daughters, deal justly with orphans, give charity, and treat the weak with respect and kindness. It warned them of the ultimate consequence of their disbelief—an everlasting abode of fire in the Hereafter. To those who believed in its message, it promised an everlasting life of bliss, happiness, and felicity.


With his hijrah to Madinah, the Prophet and the first Muslim community came in direct contact with Banu Qaynuqa’, Banu an-Nadir, and Banu Quray?ah, the three Jewish tribes who then lived at the Oasis, as well as with certain Christian tribes who lived in other parts of the Arabian peninsula. The sirah literature has preserved details of the Prophet’s childhood trip to Syria, where the trading caravan met a Christian monk who recognized in him the future Prophet.[2] The evidence for the presence of Christian communities in areas frequented by Arabs of the ?ijaz is also well established. Exegetical literature also contains specific references to a delegation of Christians from Najran which visited the Prophet in Madinah in the ninth year after hijrah and argued with him about Prophet `Isa.[3] The geographical region of the first impact of the Qur’an expanded to include the entire Arabian Peninsula within the lifetime of the Prophet. Thus both the Jews of Madinah, and through them other Jewish tribes of the region, as well as Christians of the region were well aware of the message of the Qur’an even during the life of the Prophet. This knowledge slowly made its way to other regions and became the mainstay of the first polemical works by Christians and Jews written in Europe.


Since the Qur’an had confirmed all previous revelations even as it pointed out that the followers of the earlier revelations had broken their covenant with Allah and had falsified their Scripture, it accorded a special status to the People of the Book (ahl al-kitab). One of the first things the Prophet did upon his arrival in Madinah was to sign an agreement with the three Jewish tribes as well as with al-Aws and al- Khazraj, the two tribes of Helpers (al-An?ar) who lived in Madinah. This agreement, known as the Constitution of Madinah (mithaq al- Madinah), outlined the respective rights and duties of all parties.[4]


While confirming the religious status of Jews and Christians, the Qur’an demanded that they accept the final revelation being sent to the Prophet. Historical evidence suggests that, except for some individuals, most Jews and Christians who came to know about the Qur’an during the life of the Prophet refused to accept it as a revealed Book. This refusal by Jews and Christians to accept the Qur’an as the final revelation and Prophet Mu?ammad as the last and final Messenger in the line of Prophets which included their own Prophets—Musa and `Isa—in time led to the emergence of Jewish and Christian polemical literature against the Qur’an and Prophet Mu?ammad.


Literature about the Qur’an


Literature about the Qur’an falls into four broad categories: (i) exegetical literature produced by believers, explaining the message of the Qur’an from a variety of different perspectives; (ii) polemics written by disbelievers, refuting the Qur’an; (iii) works of the Orientalists attempting to distinguish themselves from polemical works; and (iv) the contemporary academic works on the Qur’an with their characteristic claims of objectivity and dispassionate scholarship.


The most extensive work to date in this last category is The Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an (EQ).[5]


The Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an


Spread over 2,919 pages in five volumes, with an additional 860 pages of five indices in the sixth volume, EQ has been produced with the intention of providing “rigorous, academic scholarship on the Qur’an, scholarship that grows from a plurality of perspectives and presuppositions,” as General Editor Jane Dammen McAuliffe states in her preface (EQ 1, ix). The work took thirteen years to complete, from its inception in 1993, when she met Peri Bearman, a senior Brill editor, “to explore the possibility of initiating such a project,” to its completion in 2006 with the publication of an additional, unplanned, sixth volume. “The key words in the preceding sentence are ‘rigorous’ and ‘academic’,” she adds emphatically, while providing background on how the project progressed:


“Very quickly, four superb scholars, Wadad Kadi, Claude Gilliot, William Graham, and Andrew Rippin, agreed to join the editorial team. Both the desire to take stock of the field of Qur’anic (sic)[6] studies at the turn of the century and an interest in seeing this field flourish in the new millennium prompted our initial conversations. From its inception, then, EQ has gazed both backwards and forwards and this dual visioning has shaped the structuring of this encyclopaedia. As the associate editors and I proceeded with the planning, we were determined to create a reference work that would capture this century’s best achievements in Qur’anic (sic) studies. But we also wanted EQ to stimulate even more extensive scholarship on the Qur’an in the decades to come.” (EQ 1, ix-x)


Yet more important than this retrospective and prospective vision was the editors’ desire to “make the world of Qur’anic (sic) studies accessible to a very broad range of academic scholars and educated readers” (EQ 1, x). To this end, the editors made a number of decisions, some of which were not easy:


i. They decided to use English language entry words primarily to serve the needs of those scholars who do not have command of the Arabic language, even as they recognized that this would result in the loss of precision offered by transliterated Arabic entry-words; and


ii. They decided not to make EQ an encyclopaedia of the Qur’an and its interpretation, resolving to formally exclude the latter even as they recognized that virtually every article in EQ would necessarily have to draw upon the corpus of Qur’anic exegesis.


In addition to these two decisions, which have important consequences for the structure of the encyclopaedia, EQ is based on the premise that there is:


“no single academic tradition of Qur’anic (sic) scholarship. Centuries of Muslim scholarship on the Qur’an constitutes a timeline that overlaps with that of generations of Western scholarship on the text. And neither of these categories, inexact as they are, represent a single, monolithic approach or a unique, overriding methodology. Both between and within the worlds of Muslim and Western Qur’anic (sic) scholarship one finds vigorous and contentious debate….Scholarly perspectives can no longer be neatly pinned to religious identification and good scholarship is flourishing in this richly plural environment. The editors of EQ have striven to capture that plurality within the pages of this encyclopaedia, wanting this work to represent the widest possible range of rigorous, academic scholarship on the Qur’an.” (EQ 1, xi)


That these considerations, decisions, premises, and choices construct the broad framework for EQ is obvious. What may not be so obvious, however, is the backdrop from which they have arisen as well as the nature and meaning of certain key words used in the carefully worded preface, which includes “A concluding comment on controversy”:


“Some Muslims feel strongly that no non-Muslim should even touch the Qur’an, to say nothing of reading and commenting upon it. Yet most Muslims do not feel this way. While there are those who choose to ignore non-Muslim scholarship on the Qur’an as irrelevant or inherently flawed and misinformed, others welcome the contributions non-Muslim scholars have made to this field.” (EQ 1, xiii)


The preface ends with a personal statement:


“I have deliberately embraced a plurality of method and perspective within the pages of EQ, but I have done so conscious of the fact that not all scholars, whether non-Muslim or Muslim, agree with this approach. There are Muslim colleagues who have preferred not to participate out of fear that association with EQ would compromise their scholarly integrity. There are non-Muslim colleagues who have demurred for exactly the same reason. Nevertheless, these are very much the exceptions. Most scholars who were invited to contribute accepted with enthusiasm and alacrity, pleased to see the appearance of a reference work that would foster continued development within the field of Qur’anic (sic) studies.” (EQ 1, xiii)


This summary of the editors’ choices and decisions as well as the broad framework of EQ is enough to start examining, in some detail, claims and premises of this ambitious undertaking, consisting of 694 articles [7] of varying length that fall into two categories: articles “that treat important figures, concepts, places, values, actions and events to be found within the text of the Qur’an or which have an important relationship with the text; and essay-length treatments of important topics within the field of Qur’anic (sic) studies” (EQ 1, xii). The articles in these two categories have not been distinguished from one another and hence it remains up to the reader to discern which article belongs to which category.


Claims and Premises


In her preface the General Editor of EQ reiterated the editors’ desire for “rigorous and academic scholarship”, explaining further that this is a “scholarship that grows from a plurality of perspectives and presuppositions” (EQ 1, xi).


The adjective “rigorous” is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary variously as “severely exact, rigidly accurate or logical, scrupulous, strictly adhered to, unswerving.” Its application to EQ presumes certain pre-existing standards. Although these standards have not been explicitly delineated, one assumes they are the well-touted claims of the academia such as impartiality, reliance on fact rather than opinion, thorough research, inclusion of all available viewpoints, and so on. What is meant by “rigorous academic” has, as noted, been further elaborated by the General Editor as the “scholarship that grows from a plurality of perspectives and presuppositions” (EQ 1, xi).


In a real-life situation, this would mean that scholars contributing to EQ would be known to hold such plurality of perspectives and presuppositions. A quick examination of the list of contributors, however, reveals that an overwhelming majority of contributors holds only one foundational perspective on the Qur’an—a modernist, relativistic, evolutionary perspective that takes the text of the Qur’an as a human construction and that calls for a historicist-hermeneutic approach to it. While they may differ in methodology and techniques, most differences among these scholars are peripheral to this foundational perspective. This is as much true of most Muslim contributors as it is of non-Muslims. Nor can this be by default; when an editor invites contributions from someone who calls himself a “secular Muslim”, or from a scholar whose approach to the Qur’an is steeped in Western feminism, she or he already knows the nature of the contribution such scholars would make to the project. The choice of scholars enlisted for the project is neither incidental nor accidental; rather, it reflects considered preferences and intellectual affinities of the editors.[8] Likewise, when the editors decide that, out of 278 contributors, only about 20 percent would be Muslims of a particular academic lineage, they have already decided in favor of a certain perspective, notwithstanding the rather contentious claim that “religious affiliation is of no consequence in academic scholarship” (EQ 1, xi). Furthermore, Muslim contributions are largely marginal: most of the articles dealing with fundamental concepts, ideas, and terms of the Qur’an have come from non-Muslim contributors. It is also noteworthy in this context that although there are 278 authors in the list of contributors, 123 have contributed only one article, 65 have contributed two articles each, and 37 have written three articles; thus 47.5% of EQ (330 articles) come from the pen of only 53 authors, 95% of whom are non-Muslim whose Orientalist approach to the Qur’an borders on polemics.


The claim that EQ includes a plurality of perspectives may be true, but these perspectives stem from the same font—that which negates, ignores, or considers irrelevant the phenomenon of revelation (wa?y) as understood in Islam. The perspective that emerges in the absence of this fundamental precept may produce a host of mutually differing opinions, but they cannot be said to be arising out of a plurality of fundamental premises; they all rest on the supposition that the Qur’an is not the actual Word of God—at least, not as the Qur’an itself claims—but a human construct, originating orally at a specific time and place and undergoing textual “evolution” like all other oral texts.


There is a claim on the back cover of EQ which tells us that “hundreds of scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have collaborated in the creation of this work.” This is simply incorrect; there are exactly 278 contributors, no more, no less. Within this specific number, about twenty percent are Muslims, many of whom are known to subscribe to the same perspective as of the non-Muslim contributors.


The “Preface” also claims that “centuries of Muslim and non- Muslim scholarship on the Qur’an constitutes overlapping categories which do not embody any single, monolithic approach or a unique, overriding methodology” (EQ 1, xi). As proof for this claim, the General Editor draws attention to “the presence of vigorous and contentious debates within Islamic scholarship” (EQ 1, xi). But does the existence of one basic and fundamental underlying framework for treating a text foreclose the possibility of vigorous and contentious debates? The entire corpus of Muslim scholarship on the Qur’an is based on the premise that the Qur’an is the Word of God sent down to the Prophet of Islam through the medium of an Angel, Jibril, just as He sent revelation to other Prophets before him. Furthermore, Muslims have always believed that, as a revealed text, the Qur’an is protected from any corruption. This protection has been guaranteed by none other than the One Who Sent it down through a trustworthy Spirit (al-Ru? al-Amin), Jibril; hence, for them, certain questions related to the text of the Qur’an, so often discussed in modern academic scholarship, have never been valid questions. While it is true that generations of Muslim scholars have produced a vast body of literature on the Qur’an, written from a variety of linguistic, legalist, literary, esoteric, and other perspectives, and that within this vast body of literature one finds fierce disagreements, critiques, and debates, yet the overriding fact is that all of this takes place within the boundary condition set by the Sender of the Qur’an: Verily, We have sent it down and We are its Protector.[9] It is only those who deny its truth, the Qur’an asserts, who allege that it can be corrupted: Verily, those who deny the truth of this Reminder, when it has come to them [are the losers]; for, behold, it is a Mighty Book; no falsehood can enter it from front or from behind; sent down with great care by the One who is truly Wise, ever to be praised.[10] In another, rather stern, passage, the Qur’an forecloses the possibility of any change to its text by anyone, including the Prophet himself: Now if he [whom We have entrusted with it] had dared to attribute something [of his own] unto Us, We would indeed have seized him by his right hand, and would indeed have cut his jugular vein, and none of you could have saved him. Verily, this [Qur’an] is a reminder to all the God-conscious.[11]


Obviously al-Zamakhshari’s Tafsir al-Kashshaf `an ?aqa’iq Ghawami? at-Tan?il and Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`A?im are two very different kinds of exegesis, using very different methodologies and techniques, but they both arise from the same basic framework mentioned above; their dissimilarity is of a different order as compared to a work that arises from an opposing foundational perspective. Thus, as far as the Qur’an is concerned, there are only two clearly delineated foundational or meta-perspectives, out of which all other perspectives can be said to have emerged: the first considers it a text whose author is none other than God Himself; the other does not hold this view to be true.


This division is neither new nor ad hoc; it has existed ever since the first ayahs of the Qur’an were revealed. The Qur’an itself refers to these two fundamental divisions and through them classifies human beings into two categories: those who believe it to be a Divine revelation and those who do not. And this Qur’an is not such as could ever be invented in spite of Allah; rather, it is the confirmation of that which was [revealed] before it, an exposition of the Book— therein is no doubt—from the Sustainer of all the worlds. Or do they say he has invented it! Say: ‘produce, then, a surah like it, and call to your assistance whomever you can other than Allah, if you are truthful’. [12]


What is meant by pluralism in the claim by the editors of EQ is, therefore, a pluralism that arises from within the same monochromatic prism, sharing the same basic premise. It is this monochromatic premise which defines the fundamental aspect of approaches to the Qur’an by non-Muslim scholars. These approaches may be construed as having shades, even diversity, but at best, it is scholarship which remains uncommitted to the authorship of the Qur’an; at worst, it attributes the text of the Qur’an to Prophet Mu?ammad and then tries to discover its “sources”, whether human, psychological, mythical, or historical.


It is noteworthy that the Qur’an has already responded to these allegations: …and they say: ‘you are an inventor [of this revelation];’ rather, most of them have no knowledge. Say: ‘The Holy Spirit has brought it down from thy Sustainer with truth so that it might firmly establish those who believe, and so that it may be guidance and glad tidings unto all who submit’. And, indeed, full well do We know that they say, ‘he is taught by a human being.’ The tongue of him to whom they maliciously point is a`jami [non-Arabic] whereas this is clear Arabic.[13]


Likewise, for those who claim that the Qur’an is an inspired book— like the inspiration of poets—rather than revelation, the Qur’anic response is: By all that you see and what you do not see, behold, this [Qur’an] is indeed the saying of a noble Messenger, and is neither the word of a poet—however little you may believe—nor the word of a soothsayer, however little you take it to heart; a revelation from the Sustainer of all the worlds.[14]


Pluralism has become a byword—a politically correct and academically sound but much abused word—often serving to gloss the imposition of a specific worldview which has grown out of a particular history, namely, that of modern Western thought, through a series of revolts against God. These revolts have produced various theological, scientific, and political revolutions in Western thought since the Renaissance. They have given rise to ideologies and philosophies which attempt to construct a Kingdom of Man on earth in which Man himself is the measure of all things.[15] This historical process has also given birth to certain foundational institutions, the Western Academy is one such institution. Since EQ is an academic work, a fuller examination of the perspective from which it has emerged requires an understanding of the historical process through which the Academy has gained its current perspectives on religion in general and Islam and its Scripture in particular.


Religion and the Academy



The academic discourse on religion has been shaped by specific currents in Western thought, beginning with a phase of pseudo-Christianization of Aristotelian philosophy—mainly through the influence of Thomas Aquinas (1225-74)—,[16] and passing through the Reformation,[17] Humanism,[18] Naturalism,[19] Nationalism, the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century, Rationalism,[20] Deism,[21] Idealism,[22] Positivism,[23] Historicism,[24] Utilitarianism,[25] Marxism,[26] Scientism,[27] and many other “isms”. The Academy being an integral part of the modern Western civilization draws its legal, human, and material resources from that same civilization, and has been influenced by all these currents. Its entire apparatus of teaching, research, and knowledge production rests on the same currents of thought that have shaped modern Western civilization. This civilization has emerged out of a series of revolts against what it subsequently called its “Dark Age”.


While there is considerable difference of opinion among scholars working in different fields about when the Middle Ages ended and when what is now called “modern times” began, for our purpose there is a clear demarcation between the two eras: the dawn of the fourteenth century. “This date marks the beginning of a fresh decline,” wrote René Guénon (1886- 1951) in The Crisis of the Modern World,


“which has continued through various phases and with gathering impetus down to the present day. The real starting point of the modern crisis dates from that moment: it witnessed the first signs of the disruption of Christendom, with which the Western civilization of the Middle Ages was inseparably bound up: at the same time, while it marked the break up of the feudal system, so closely linked with that same Christendom, it also coincided with the origin of the formation of “nations”. Modern times must therefore be regarded as going back almost two centuries farther than is usually assumed to be the case; the Renaissance and the Reformation were both primarily in the nature of results and they were only rendered possible by the preceding decadence; but far from constituting a revival, they denoted a yet more serious decline since they completed the rupture with the traditional spirit, the former in the domain of the arts and science and the latter in the sphere of religion itself, and that, in spite of the fact that this is the field in which it would have seemed most difficult to conceive of the possibility of such a rupture taking place at all.”[28]


The Renaissance man was, therefore, already a fallen man, the one who sought solace in the philosophical thought of the fifth century BCE—an era deemed to be the golden age of Greek thought, while in fact it was an age of decline and decadence even when compared to the Pythagorean era, not to mention the pre-Pythagorean age. “The Renaissance was really the death of many things; on the pretext of a return to Graeco-Roman civilization it merely took over the most outward part of that civilization…there was a word which rose to repute at the time of the Renaissance and which summarized in advance the whole programme of modern civilization: this word is ‘humanism’.”[29]


In short, in the very process of its so-called Renaissance, European religious thought suffered an irreparable loss through


“reducing everything to purely human proportions, of eliminating every principle belonging to a higher order and, figuratively speaking, of turning away from heaven on the pretext of gaining possession of the earth; the Greeks, whose example men claimed they were following, had never gone so far in this direction, even at the time of their lowest intellectual decadence, and utilitarian considerations had at least never occupied first place with them as they were very soon to do with the moderns. “Humanism” was already an earliest form of what has subsequently become contemporary “laicism”; and, in attempting to reduce everything to the stature of man taken as an end in himself, modern civilization has sunk stage by stage to the level of his lowest elements and aims at little more than satisfying the needs inherent in the material side of his nature, an aim which is, in any case, quite illusory, as it continually creates more artificial wants than it can ever hope to satisfy.” [30]


The rise of the “material civilization”,[31] which now engulfs all realms of modern life and thought, was only possible at the expense of the destruction of the Kingdom of God, and “Humanism” provided all that was necessary for this barter. As a result, not only did profane sciences of nature emerge, but the whole understanding of the natural order was reduced to a human level. There arose new fields of scholarship with their own methodologies and approaches, all tailored to the needs of the new Kingdom of Man to which “Humanism” gave birth; the academic study of religion was one such new discipline which first made its appearance in European and British universities and then spread to North America. Christianity was the first victim of this academic adventure. It provided a vast field of unending research to academic scholars in fields as varied as historiography, textual analysis, theology, sociology of religion, religious praxis, and so on. In the process of recasting religion and what it means to humanity, the doctors of the Academy developed tools, methodologies, and conventions which they then started to apply to other religions. The Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an is the work of scholars who study religious texts from within this well-established academic tradition.


Certain key features of this tradition were succinctly summarized by Muhammad Hasan Askari (1919-1978) in a short two-part treatise. Part two of this book contains a list of 153 specific presumptions, claims, and approaches to Islam which Askari called aberrations (gumrahi).[32] He pointed out that, in previous eras, aberrations were limited in number and in their geographical spread, but that this is no longer the case. Furthermore, certain foundational religious terms have changed meaning in Western thought so many times during the last three centuries that their use poses basic difficulties in understanding primary concepts; every few years, they are given a new meaning with the result that there is no fixed meaning attached to these terms anymore. “Religion” and “fi?rah” are two prime examples of this kind of distortion. They have been used to mean so many different things that they have become meaningless.[33]


The major aberrations included in Askari’s list are summarized below; evidence of most of these traits can be found in the articles of EQ, as will become more apparent as we examine some typical articles in the next section.


According to Askari, Orientalists and their intellectual heirs, the academic scholars


“lack the understanding that the religion (din) has three distinct elements: beliefs (`aqa’id); acts of worship (`ibadat); and ethics (akhlaq), in this order of importance, or takes one or two of these and leaves the other;


they do not consider beliefs (`aqa’id) to be an integral part of religion; or consider beliefs something that changes from time to time (evolutionary perspective); or as a means of emotional satisfaction;


they consider `ibadat (specific acts of worship) mere rituals which can be accepted, rejected, or modified by human beings;


they consider religion a social institution and a means for the organization of society and take religion as a means for improving material life; they limit religion to ethics or think of religion as an ethical system;


they assume that the purpose of religion is character building— and equate character with those traits that are deemed socially useful;


they think that religion is a product of the human mind and take it as an evolutionary process; they even consider God or the concept of God to undergo evolution;


they consider false beliefs (al-ba?il) at par with true beliefs (al-?aqq) under the pretext of tolerance and liberal thinking;


they apply relativism to religious principles and insist that all ideas are only relatively true, not absolutely;


they deny the existence of the Intellect (`aql) or equate it with Reason; they deny the existence of knowledge (`ilm) beyond that which can be gathered by Reason, and negate the existence of means of knowledge that are higher than Reason and thereby limit knowledge to the knowledge of the material world; they reject or rationalize beliefs which are beyond Reason; they even attempt to find rational bases for religious commands (ahkam); they deny miracles or interpret them on rational bases;


they deny the authenticity of the oral tradition and demand textual evidence for all things;


they do not accept any authority, even the authority of a Prophet; they insist that their own opinion is as valid as the ?ukm found in the Book of Allah or in the saying of the Prophet;


their entire framework of study is built upon Positivism, Pragmatism, and Utilitarianism; they make material progress the measure of all things. [34]




[1] This estimate is based on the number of Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia in the fifth year of nubuwwah (Prophetic mission) (16); those who left Makkah for Abyssinia in the second hijrah to Abyssinia (82 or 83); those from Yathrib who accepted Islam before the hijrah (there were 12 men at the first `Aqabah which took place in Dhul-?ijjah, the 12th year of nubuwwah, and 73 men and two women at the second `Aqabah which took place in Dhul-?ijjah 13 nubuwwah). There were 82, 83, or 86 Muhajir at the battle of Badr. Thus 350 is a generous estimate and includes families of these early Muslims.


[2] Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, 1424/2004), 121-23; hereinafter as-Sirah.


[3] This event is mentioned in almost all major exegeses in connection with the “Ayahs of Mubahalah” in Surah Al-Imran: 3:61-2.


[4] as-Sirah, 306-10; also see Muhammad Hamidullah, The Prophet’s Establishing a State and his Succession (Islamabad: Pakistan Hijrah Council, 1408/1988).


[5] Jane Dammen McAuliffe (General Editor), Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an (Leiden: Brill, 2001-2006); hereinafter EQ.


[6] Some Orientalists have started to use a new transliteration scheme for capitalization of certain key Islamic terms and words including the derivatives of “Qur’an”. Until recently, the generally accepted convention among academia was to follow a modified version of the schema used in the New Edition of The Encylopaedia of Islam (hereinafter EI), which employed an awkward spelling for “Qur’an” (using “K. ” with a dot underneath, rather than “Q”). The modified scheme replaced “K. ”, with “Q”. EI, however, used capitalization for “Qur’anic”, the adjective derived from “Qur’an”. Now a certain segment of Western academia has started to use the lowercase “q” for “qur’anic” and other adjectives derived from “Qur’an”. EQ also follows this new convention. Since “everything signifies” is a truism, this shift is not without meaning. Among other things, a capital letter is used to represent uniqueness. When we spell “John”, we impart a uniqueness to this word which is lost in “john”. The word “Qur’an” and its derivatives refer to a unique text and its qualities; therefore, to remove capitalization from a derivative but not from its mother word is, to say the least, an inconsistent choice. In this review, except for direct quotes, “Qur’an” and all its derivatives are spelled with a capital “Q”.


[7] The description on back cover of EQ claims “nearly 1000 entries in five volumes,” perhaps this includes single-line entries.


[8] It is not without reason that similar preferences mark the other work of the General Editor of EQ, see McAuliffe (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Qur’an (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), where selected contributors have a similar attitude toward the Qur’an.


[9] Al-?ijr: 9. All translations are mine. I have consulted a number of translations of the Qur’an as well as different tafasir to render the meanings of the Qur’anic ayat into English.


[10] Fu??ilat: 41-42.


[11] Al-?aqqah: 44-48.


[12] Yunus: 37-38.


[13] An-Na?l: 101-103.


[14] Al-?aqqah: 38-43.


[15] Man, with a capital “M”, is used here as translation of insan, an Arabic word denoting a human being, whether male or female; this makes it possible to avoid awkward constructions, requiring gender specifications.


[16] The Italian philosopher, theologian, and Dominican friar, regarded as the greatest figure of scholasticism. He also devised the official Roman Catholic tenets as declared by Pope Leo XIII. His works include many commentaries on Aristotle as well as the Summa Contra Gentiles, intended as a manual for those disputing with Spanish Muslims and Jews. His principal achievement was making the work of Aristotle acceptable in Christian Western Europe; his own metaphysics, his account of the human mind, and his moral philosophy were a development of Aristotle’s, and in his famous arguments for the existence of God, he was indebted to Aristotle and to certain Muslim philosophers.


[17] The 16th-centuary European religious movement for the reform of the doctrines and practices of the Church of Rome, resulting in the establishment of the Reformed and Protestant Churches.


[18] A belief or outlook making human beings the measure of all things, seeking solely rational ways of solving human problems, and concerned with humankind as responsible and progressive intellectual beings.


[19] The belief that only natural (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world. Also, the belief that moral concepts can be analyzed in terms of concepts applicable to natural phenomena.


[20] The practice of treating reason as the ultimate authority in religious matters. Also, the practice of explaining supernatural or miraculous events on a rational basis. In philosophy, the doctrine that reason should be the only guiding principle in life, obviating the need for reliance on or adherence to any form of religious belief.


[21] The belief in one God, who created but does not intervene in the universe; the so called ‘Natural Religion’.


[22] That is, any of various systems of thought in which the object of external perception is held to consist of ideas not resulting from any unperceived material substance.


[23] The philosophical system elaborated by Auguste Comte (1798-1857), recognizing only positive facts and observable phenomena and rejecting metaphysics and theism; the term here is being used to denote a humanistic system founded on this philosophy. Also, the belief that every intelligible proposition can be scientifically verified or falsified, and that philosophy can only be concerned with the analysis of the language used to express such propositions.


[24] The tendency to regard historical development as the most basic aspect of human existence, and historical thinking as the most important type of thought.


[25] The doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority; specifically, as the term is used in Western philosophy to denote the doctrine that the greatest good for the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct.


[26] Here referring specifically to the impact of the political and economic theories of Karl Marx (1818-83) on Western religious and philosophical thought, especially his emphatic belief in scientific laws determined by dialectical materialism.


[27] Excessive belief in the power of scientific knowledge and techniques and their applicability to other fields including the study of religion, human behavior, and social sciences.


[28] René Guénon, The Crisis of the Modern World, trans. Marco Pallis and Richard Nicholson (London: Luzac & Co., 1942), 9; hereinafter Crisis; original French edition, La crise du monde moderne (Paris: Bossard, 1927).


[29] Crisis, 9-11.


[30] Crisis, 11.


[31] A term used here in the sense in which Guénon used it to mean “an entire mental outlook…which consists in more or less consciously giving preponderance to things belonging to the material order and to preoccupations relating thereto, whether these preoccupations still retain a certain speculative appearance or whether they remain purely practical ones; and it cannot be seriously denied that this is, in fact, the mental attitude of the great majority of our contemporaries” (see Crisis, 80 and passim).


[32] Muhammad Hasan Askari, Jadidiat ya Maghrabi Gumrahiyon ki Karikh ka Khakah (Modernism or An Outline of the History of Western Aberration) (Lahore: `Iffat Hasan, 1979); hereafter Jadidiat. This work heavily relies on Guenon’s Crisis and other writings.


[33] Jadidiat, 16-18.


[34] This is a composite summary of the “List of 153 Aberrations”, 100 129.




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