The Search for Meaning: Tafsīr, Hermeneutics, and Theories of Reading

In: Arabica
S.R. Burge Institute of Ismaili Studies

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This article explores the process of exegesis in light of post-modern literary theories, particularly those regarding hermeneutics and reading. The article considers exegetes in their role as both a reader of the Qurʾān and as the author of an exegesis. Both of these actions, reading and writing, have an impact on the way in which the tafsīr is produced. As a reader, an exegete responds to the text of the Qurʾān in a way which confirms and conforms to his own theology and worldview. As a writer, an exegete attempts to convince his (or her) readers of the validity of his (or her) own views and interpretations of the text. However, the aims and objectives that an exegete has for a work also have an impact on the way the tafsīr is actually shaped. (Post)modern views of reading and writing can explain how a single text can generate such a wide range of interpretations in Qurʾānic exegetical works.

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