The Spirit and the Letter: Approaches to the Esoteric Interpretation of the Qur'an

ISBN : 9780198783336

Annabel Keeler; Sajjad H. Rizvi
495 ページ
156 x 234 mm
Qur'anic Studies Series

This volume is the first to focus specifically on esoteric interpretation as a phenomenon in the field of Qur'anic exegesis and to show the plurality of ways it has been manifested in different Muslim traditions. Concern with the inner, spiritual implications of the Qur'an has usually been associated with mystical and Sufi trends in Islam. However, there have also been exegetes among the Shi'a, as well as among philosophers, who sought to supplement their understanding of the Qur'an's apparent meaning by eliciting deeper significations through contemplation of the verses. The Spirit and the Letter examines the multiplicity of these esoteric approaches, covering a period that extends from the third/ninth century to the present. It includes chapters on philosophical and Shi'i exegetes, such as Ibn Sina (d. 428/1037) and Mulla Sadra (d. 1045/1635-6), in addition to studies of a range of Sufi perspectives, from al-Sulami (d. 412/1021) and al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072) to Ruzbihan Baqli (d. 606/1209), as well as representatives of the Ibn 'Arabi and Kubrawi schools. Considered together, the range of studies in this volume enable us to see what these approaches have in common and how they differ, and how the hermeneutics and content of exegesis are affected by doctrinal and ideological perspectives of various traditions and periods. Furthermore, they deepen our understanding of what actually constitutes esoteric interpretation and the need to look beyond the letter to the spirit of the Qur'anic word.


Notes on Contributors
Introduction Annabel Keeler and Sajjad Rizvi
Part I: Comparative Hermeneutics
1: Sara Sviri: The Countless Faces of Understanding: On Istinbāṭ, Mystical Listening and Sufi Exegesis
2: Gerhard Böwering: The Interpretation of the Arabic Letters in Early Sufism: Sulamī s Sharḥ maʿānī al-ḥurūf
3: Annabel Keeler: Towards a Prophetology of Love: The Figure of Jacob in Sufi Commentaries on Sūrat Yūsuf
4: Kristin Zahra Sands: Making it Plain: Sufi Commentaries in English in the Twentieth Century
Part II: Commentators and Texts in Focus
5: Meir M. Bar-Asher: Outlines of Early Ismaili-Fatimid Qurʾan Exegesis
6: Peter Heath: Ibn Sīnā's Qur'anic Hermeneutics
7: Martin Nguyen: Qushayrī's Exegetical Encounter with the Miʿrāj
8: Toby Mayer: Shahrastānīʾs Mafātīḥ al-Asrār: A Medieval Ismaili System of Hermeneutics?
9: Richard Todd: Qūnawī's Scriptural Hermeneutics
10: Pierre Lory: Eschatology and Hermeneutics in Kāshānī's Taʾwīlāt al-Qurʾān
11: Paul Ballanfat: Simnānī and Hermeneutics
12: Janis Esots: Speech, Book, and Healing Knowledge: The Qur'anic Hermeneutics of Mullā Ṣadrā
13: Bakri Aladdin: Aspects of Mystical Hermeneutics and the Theory of the Oneness of Being (waḥdat al-wujūd) in the work of ʿAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī (d. 1143/1731)
14: Mahmut Ay: The Sufi Hermeneutics of Ibn ʿAjība (d. 1224/1809): A Study of Some Eschatological Verses of the Qurʾan
15: Amin Ehteshami and Sajjad Rizvi: Beyond the Letter: Explanation (tafsīr) versus Adaptation (taṭbīq) in Ṭabāṭabā'ī s al-Mīzān


Annabel Keeler is an Affiliated Researcher at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and a Research Associate of Wolfson College, both at the University of Cambridge. Her research interests include Sufi exegesis, early to 'classical' Islamic mysticism, Persian literature and prophetology. She is the author of Sufi Hermeneutics: the Qur'an Commentary of Rashīd al-Dīn Maybudī (London, 2006) and co-translator of the commentary of Sahl al-Tustarī, under the title, Tafsīr al-Tustarī (Kentucky, 2011). She is currently working on a monograph on the third/ninth century mystic Abū Yazī al-Bisṭāmī and continuing her comparative study of Sufi commentaries on Sūrat Yūsuf.; Sajjad Rizvi is Associate Professor of Islamic Intellectual History at the University of Exeter. Trained as a historian at Oxford and Cambridge, he has previously taught at the universities of Cambridge and Bristol. A specialist of Islamic thought in the Persianate East, he is the author of Mullā Ṣadrā Shīrāzī (Oxford, 2007) and Mullā Ṣadrā and Metaphysics (London, 2009), and is currently working on a study of the same thinker's noetics. His future projects include a comparative history of philosophy in the Persianate eighteenth century, and an intellectual history of Islamic philosophical traditions in India from 1500 to 1900.