Andreas Gorke and Johanna Pink, "Tafsir and Islamic Intellectual History: Exploring the Boundaries of a Genre" (Oxford UP, 2015)


What does it mean to interpret the Qur'an? What kinds of literary genres have produced and continue to produce such inquiry? Is tafsir only a line-by-line commentary or could it be something broader, blended with genres of law, storytelling, or translation? Whose authority counts and why? Tafsir and Islamic Intellectual History: Exploring the Boundaries of a Genre (Oxford University Press, 2015) aims to address these questions in its ambitious agenda. Johanna Pink and Andreas Gorke have provided a great service to the field of Qur'anic studies by compiling this fine volume, penned by fifteen established as well as rising scholars in the field. The book is conveniently organized according to five sections, which explore the challenges of Qur'anic exegesis in modern and premodern contexts. The authors also explore a number of languages and geographical regions, which showcases the diverse expressions of exegesis that Muslims have produced over the centuries. Pink's own chapter in the volume, for example, analyzes the exegetical works of Yemeni scholar, Muhammad al-Shawkani (d. 1835) and provocatively argues that labels (e.g., modern or Salafi) have their uses but can nonetheless introduce other problematics, and readers should be careful before assuming an easy fit. In addition to appealing to Qur'anic studies scholars of many stripes the edited volume also presents itself as a reference work, given its broad scope, meticulous notes, and extensive bibliography and should appeal to diverse readers accordingly.
Elliott Bazzano is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Le Moyne College. His research and teaching interests include theory and methodology in the study of religion, Islamic studies, Qur'anic studies, mysticism, religion and media, and religion and drugs. His academic publications are available here. He can be reached at ( Listener feedback is most welcome.

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