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The View of the Other in Modern Malay Exegesis of the Quran


The Quran plays a major role in the understanding of many Malay Muslims in their daily practices and beliefs. Due to this the works of exegesis or tafsir of the Quran had appeared in Malay since the 1940s. These exegeses play a role in the conceptualising of Muslim view of themselves and the others. Seeing the importance of Islam various state religious institutions were created to provide and cater for the teaching of Islam to the public. As the Quran is seen to be a major factor in the conceptualisation of Muslims, this paper aims to analyse the utilisation of exegetical work on the Quran in the teaching of the masses with the supervision of the state. The topic chosen is the view of these exegeses of the Quran on other religions. The article will cover 3 main tafsirs: The Tafsir Nur al-Ihsan, Tafsir Juzu' 'Amma, and the Tafsir al-Rahman in contemporary Malaysia. It will be seen that the tafsir is used by different state and local actors in the Malay religious scene to push forward a certain conservative understanding of religion which is helpful in preserving a homogenized Malay Muslim identity. Even though the Jews and the Christians are mentioned in the Quran as People of the Book, many of these exegeses tend to label them as "kafir" or deniers of the message of the Quran. As will be seen in one of the examples in the paper, even those not associated with the State directly has followed this approach thus making an insular Malay Muslim identity especially when referred to other religions and also perhaps making dialogue between the religions difficult if not nearly impossible. This paper would highlight certain aspects of these exegeses and how they are a conservative way of interpreting the Quran which is against the more open, modern and pluralist way which is needed in today's modern world. 


Malay tafsir, Religions, Malay identity, Institutionalisation of Islam, Malaysia



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