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Tafsīr al-Jalālayn at the Crossroads: Interpreting the Qur'ān in Modern Indonesia


Scholarly studies of Southeast Asian commentaries of the Qur’ān produced prior to the 20th century uncover the dominant position of Tafsīr al-Jalālayn as the main reference among other popular classical and medieval Qur’ānic commentaries authored by al-Baghawī, al-Khāzin and al-Bayḍāwī. In this article, I question the Jalālayn’s position in modernist exegetical activities, given the translated text is usually presented so briefly that it prevents authors of tafsir from giving extra-explanations as glosses. Meanwhile, there is an increasing trend in modern tafsir literature to expand commentaries from various disciplines. For this study, I examine selected verses from Tafsir Qurän Karim by an Azhari-trained scholar, Mahmud Yunus (d. 1982), as among the first complete Malay/Indonesian commentaries in the modern period (1938). I argue the Jalālayn was at a crossroads for being marginalised from mainstream modernist Indonesian tafsir literature. While the absence of Jalālayn’s role in modern Indonesian commentaries is obvious, modernist commentators do not entirely neglect some legendary elements usually found in classical and medieval Qur’ānic commentaries and add them to their commentary works.


Mahmud Yunus, Tafsir Quran Karim, Isra'iliyyat, Modern Qur'anic interpretation



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