The Qur’an and Interpretation in the Classical Modernism

Tafsīrcentric Approach of Muhammad ʿAbduh

  • Hakan Coruh Charles Sturt University
Keywords: Modernist Quran Exegesis, Muhammad 'Abduh, S. Ahmad Khan, Salafism


This paper focuses on the muslim modernist exegesis. In the mid-nineteenth century Muslim modernist exegesis emerged under the influence of Western science in various parts of Muslim lands such as India and Egypt. Some main characteristics of this approach in the early Muslim modernism are as follows: A central focus on the Quran as the primary text; a sceptical approach to ḥadīth; emphasis on ijtihad (independent reasoning), emphasis on a new systematic theology (new kalām), a critical approach to classical Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), and interpreting the Qur’an in the light of reason and modern sciences. The current literature describes Muhammad ʿAbduh (d. 1905) as a modernist salafī or intellectual modernism (by Fazlur Rahman). The paper holds the view that because the more emphasis is given to the Qur’an rather ḥadīth in ʿAbduh’s thought, ‘intellectual modernism’ seems the best description for ʿAbduh’s way. It also argues that what ʿAbduh attempts to do is tafsīrisation of other Islamic disciplines through his text-based approach.