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Cover for the book Understanding the Qurʾanic Miracle Stories in the Modern Age

Understanding the Qurʾanic Miracle Stories in the Modern Age

Isra Yazicioglu
“Isra Yazicioglu's Understanding the Qurʾanic Miracle Stories in the Modern Age is an intriguing study not only of the Qurʾan but also of the reception history of the sacred text in light of the challenge of rationalism. Meandering from the Qurʾan itself to Ghazali and Ibn Rushd as well as Peirce and Hume and Nursi, Yazicioglu's work serves as a useful reminder of how intellectual trends in each era have shaped our interaction with divine revelation in a way that is timeless—and also timely.”
“This is an important book that brings miracle stories from Islam into conversation with philosophy. Isra Yazicioglu takes us on a journey through al-Ghazali’s defense of miracle stories—and she reframes those stories in terms of modern philosophy, beginning with Hume, developing with Peirce (who reminds us that natural laws are not absolute but who nevertheless recognizes regularities in nature), and ending with Nursi (for whom miracles invite us to rethink our assumptions about natural causation). Yazicioglu's pragmatic hermeneutics raises highly relevant philosophical questions and makes us rethink our assumptions about Qurʾanic miracle stories, showing how we must read them as relevant scriptural texts that question our assumptions about the world. This is a well-written and engaging book on an important topic. It deserves to be widely read and discussed.”

The Qurʾan contains many miracle stories, from Moses’s staff turning into a serpent to Mary’s conceiving Jesus as a virgin. In Understanding the Qurʾanic Miracle Stories in the Modern Age, Isra Yazicioglu explores the ways in which meaningful implications have been drawn from these apparently strange narratives in both the premodern and modern eras. She fleshes out a fascinating medieval Muslim debate over miracles and connects its insights with early and late modern turning points in Western thought and with contemporary Qurʾanic interpretation. Building on an apparent tension within the Qurʾan and analyzing crucial cases of classical and modern Muslim engagement with these miracle stories, Yazicioglu illustrates how an apparent site of conflict between faith and reason, or revelation and science, can become a site of fruitful exchange.

This book is a distinctive contribution to a new trend in Qurʾanic studies: it reveals the presence of insightful Qurʾanic interpretation outside of the traditional line-by-line commentary genre, engaging with the works of Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, and Said Nursi. Moreover, while it focuses on the case of miracle stories, the book also goes beyond these specific passages to reflect more broadly on the issue of Qurʾanic hermeneutics. It notes the connections between literal and symbolic approaches and highlights the importance of reading the Qurʾan with an eye to its potential implications for everyday life.

Isra Yazicioglu is Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. Joseph’s University.

Contents

Acknowledgments

Note on Transliteration

Introduction: The Qurʾanic Miracle Stories: A Puzzling Motif?

Part 1 A Medieval Muslim Debate

1 In Defense of a Literal Reading of Miracles: Ghazali’s Case for Contingency and Grace

2 A Cautious Approach to Miracle Stories: Ibn Rushd’s Case for Rationalism and Divine Wisdom

Part 2 Reframing the Debate on Miracles in Modern Terms

3 David Hume on Empiricism, Common Sense, and Miracles

4 Charles S. Peirce on Pragmatism, Science, and Miracles

Part 3 Contemporary Connections

5 Said Nursi’s Contemporary Reading of Qurʾanic Miracle Stories

Conclusion: Qurʾanic Hermeneutics in the Modern Age

Notes

Bibliography

Index

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