The Qur'an: Open to Modernist interpretation?

Essay by tumraUniversity, Bachelor's February 2005

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Compare and contrast Micheal Cook and Neil Robinson

The Qur'an has stimulated much debate, discussion, and polemic from the very start of its revelation. It was a proselytizing tool, a source of guidance, consolation, and edification for the early Muslims and a reaction to the intransigence, scorn, and disbelief of the pagan Arabs. Since then, the Qur'an, despite, its sacred status for Muslims, as the word of God, has not simply been immortalised in history and then carefully stored in a safe, elevated place beyond reach, rather it has been handled and worked, memorised, utilized and exploited, understood and misunderstood. It has pervaded every element of Muslim life, ideology, politics, and theology; it has been stretched to breaking point to cover every exigency, dilemma, and controversy and to this, the colossal lore of Islamic literature bears testimony. However, the analysis and interpretation of the Qur'an has been, until recent years, the sole province of Muslims, who by definition, take their unquestioned premises with regard to the divinity and appearance of the Qur'an as point of departure.

However, with the rising tide of European scholars investing interest in the Qur'an, new and fresher perspectives of the Qur'an have been brought to the fore, perspectives which are only objective in the sense that the scholars are not existentially involved in the subject under scrutiny, that is, a potent and all-pervasive belief does not define their worldviews and therefore constrain their visions, this is not to say however, that their starting postulates do not reflect their own worldviews, preconceptions and ideologies.

The differences in the starting postulates of Neil Robinson and Michael Cook are manifest in the methodologies they adopt to analyse the Qur'an, which reflect their preconceptions and worldviews. Cook approaches the Qur'an from an existential point of view.