The Thematic Interpretation of Quran

Welcome to this Ramadan series that presents a thematic interpretation of the Quran.

There are number of schools when it comes to the interpretation of the Quran. There are those who interpret Quran linguistically, therefore they look at the grammar or allegorical side like metaphor, similes, structures.

There are scholars who interpret Quran according to history, so they look at what the companions said, or if they find something in the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad and related what they think is tied to the Quran.

There are people who look for interpretation of the commands and how they apply in the Islamic jurisprudence.

There are people who look at Quran and science and look for scientific evidences from the current times and how they tie to some of the expressions of the Quran.

There are people who look at various sides of Quran. A sufi interpretation looks for hidden meanings from the experience of the Sufis and how they relate to the meanings of the Quran.

In the Modern Era

There is a new school that emerged about a century and a half ago with the renewal of the Islamic thought in the previous Islamic century. Scholars in this school look at themes in the Quran. Like for example “Tafsir al-Manar” by Sheikh Muhammad Abdu and Sheikh Rachid Reda. They looked at the theme of every chapter, and themes of different stories using a holistic approach.

Sayyid Qutb in his book “In the Shade of Quran” starts every chapter with a thematic interpretation of the chapter and looks at general theme of the chapters and how they relate to each other.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdallah Draz has a full tafsir of chapter 2, Al Baqarah, in which he puts it in a bigger and holistic picture. It’s a high level of interpretation.

Muhammad Al Ghazali also has “Towards a Thematic Interpretation of the Quran”, and Sheikh Al-Qaradawi has an interpretation of some chapters according to a thematic interpretation, and also some themes like knowledge in the Quran.

Taha Al-Alwani did a thematic interpretation of different themes of the Quran like purification, civilization, monotheism…

Hassan Al-Turabi also has an incredible interpretation called “The Unified Interpretation” where you could see the different themes are unified.

Sayyid Muhammad Bakir Al-Sadr has “The Universal Laws Related to History in the Quran”.

Imam Al Farahi has a thematic interpretation of the Quran.

Sheikh Ash-Sha’rawi in his many thoughts about the Quran, also took a thematic approach. His approach is close to the linguistic approach, but the thematic approach is also clear by looking at particular meanings throughout the Quran and connecting different stories…

Sheikh Wahbah al-Zuhayli has a thematic approach in interpreting the Quran. Sheikh Muhammad Tahir ibn Ashur in his book called “Liberation and Enlightenment” has a thematic approach especially through the objectives of the Quran.

Aisha bint Ash Shati’ has an allegorical interpretation of Quran, with very interesting insights.

Almost every modern interpreter of the Quran had added a thematic unifying kind of look at the Quran. This is because of a need to develop what we call today the Islamic thought.

The Islamic thought can’t really develop without the original source and looking at it not as verse by verse or looking for particular laws. The current scholars are looking for themes because they would like to make our understanding of the Quran relevant to our times.

In this series, we’ll look at the objectives of the Quran, the concepts of the Quran, the universal laws, the parties, value system of the Quran, commands in the Quran as a theme, the logic of the Quran. We’ll also look at how the Quran dealt with history, and how it dealt with reality.

So please stay tuned…

About Dr. Jasser Auda
Jasser Auda is a Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, the Executive Director of the Maqasid Institute, a global think tank based in London, and a Visiting Professor of Islamic Law at Carleton University in Canada. He is a Founding and Board Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, Fellow of the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India, and General Secretary of Yaqazat Feker, a popular youth organization in Egypt. He has a PhD in the philosophy of Islamic law from University of Wales in the UK, and a PhD in systems analysis from University of Waterloo in Canada. Early in his life, he memorized the Quran and studied Fiqh, Usul and Hadith in the halaqas of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo. He previously worked as: Founding Director of the Maqasid Center in the Philosophy of Islamic Law in London; Founding Deputy Director of the Center for Islamic Ethics in Doha; professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Alexandria University in Egypt, Islamic University of Novi Pazar in Sanjaq, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, and the American University of Sharjah. He lectured and trained on Islam, its law, spirituality and ethics in dozens of other universities and organizations around the world. He wrote 25 books in Arabic and English, some of which were translated to 25 languages.