Ethics in the Qurʾān and the Tafsīr Tradition

From the Polynoia of Scripture to the Homonoia of Exegesis


This book is about the articulation of ethics in the Qurʾān and the tafsīr tradition. Based on an examination of several apparently problematic Qurʾānic narrative pericopes and how the exegetes grappled with them, the book demonstrates that the moral world of the Qurʾān is polyvalent and non-linear, owing, above all, to its intrinsic ethical antinomies and textual ambiguities. That is, the book contends that paradox and uncertainty are both constituents of the Qurʾān’s ethical architectonics, and that through these constituents the Qurʾān charts a system of ethics that seeks to tread in the midst of a non-ideal world rife with uncertainty.
The book also argues that the tafsīr tradition tends to erode the hermeneutical openness of the Qurʾān and, thereby, limits the Qurʾān’s ethical potential. The book, thus, advances our understanding of Qurʾānic ethics and contributes to the field of tafsīr studies and to the scholarship on Qurʾānic hermeneutics.

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Tareq Hesham Moqbel is a Research Fellow at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, and an Associate Member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford. His work addresses the Qurʾān—its reading traditions, interpretation, and continuity with the Bible.
Notes on Referencing, Translation, and Transliteration

1 Introduction
 1 Scope of the Inquiry
 2 Previous Scholarship on Qurʾānic Ethics
 3 Aims and Research Questions
 4 Choice of Qurʾānic Commentaries
 5 Central Arguments
 6 Plan of the Book

Part 1 Theory

2 Antinomy
 1 Introduction
 2 The Antinomy of Values
 3 Antinomies in the Qurʾān
 4 Implications of Moral Antinomies: Morality and Code Fixation
 5 Implications of Moral Antinomies: Moral Rules as Idealizations?
 6 Narratives as Sites of Moral Antinomies
 7 Managing Paradox: Conflict Resolution Mechanisms in the Tafsīr Tradition
 8 Conclusion

3 Ambiguity
 1 Introduction
 2 The Concept of Ambiguity
 3 The Function of Ambiguity
 4 Bauer’s Thesis on Ambiguity in the Tafsīr Tradition
 5 The Tolerance of Ambiguity in Qurʾānic Narratives
 6 Theology of Revelation, Interpretation, and Ethics
 7 Conclusion

4 The Drive towards Homonoia in the Tafsīr Tradition
 1 Introduction
 2 Theoretical Thematisation of Homonoia
 3 Homonoia in Exegetical Practice
 4 Counterpoints
 5 Conclusion

Part 2 Praxis

5 The Ethical Nature of God
 1 Introduction
 2 Moses on the All-Encompassing Destruction
 3 The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart
 4 Abraham Debating the Punishment of Sodom
 5 The Binding of Abraham’s Son
 6 Shuʿayb and the Will of God
 7 Conclusion

6 Ethics towards God
 1 Introduction
 2 Arguing with God? The Angels and the Beginning of Creation
 3 Abraham’s Attribution of God’s Name to a Star
 4 Joseph and the Remembrance of God
 5 Mary’s Death Wish
 6 Jonah and God’s Omnipotence
 7 Conclusion

7 Social Ethics
 1 Introduction
 2 Joseph on the Ethics of Seeking Leadership and Self-Praise
 3 Joseph and the Ethics of Deception
 4 Property Damage and Homicide in the Moses-Khiḍr Narrative
 5 Abraham on the Problem of Lying
 6 Conclusion

8 Beyond Good and Evil: A Conclusion

Index of Qurʾānic Verses
General Index
Qurʾānic studies scholars, specialists in Islamic ethics, and students of moral philosophy.
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