Mapping 21st Century Islamic Scholarship

A Review of Dr. Tauseef Ahmad Parray’s 21st Century Trends and Approaches in Islamic Scholarship
"His valuable contribution to the field comes out from an array of reviews by various scholars on his books, which constitute Appendix (pp. 571-619) of the book under review."
"His valuable contribution to the field comes out from an array of reviews by various scholars on his books, which constitute Appendix (pp. 571-619) of the book under review."Special arrangement

Title: 21st Century Trends and Approaches on Islamic Scholarship: Critical Reviews on 125 Recent Books

Author: Dr. Tauseef Ahmad Parray

Publication Details: Aligarh: Brown Books and Springs, South Africa: Ahsan Academy of Research, 2023

Pages: 616; ISBN: 9781-81-954082-0-7; Price: ₹795

The subtitle of this substantial book under  review provides the key to the contents and drift of the entire work. The exhaustive reviews by Dr. Tauseef Ahmad Parray (Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies in the Higher Education Department, J&K) on a range of the latest titles encompassing various domains of Islamic studies steer readers through the currents and cross-currents of Islamic scholarship in the last two decades.

Dr Parray’s areas of interest are enviably wide, as is evident from the categorization of the recent 125 titles under these eight (8) sections; viz, the English translations of the Quran, Quranic Studies, Sirah, Islamic history and civilization, Theology and Sufism, Islam and politics, Islam and contemporary issues and contemporary Muslim world.

Over the years, Dr. Parray has established his credentials as a promising scholar, having authored numerous research papers and over a dozen of books in the areas of Muslim intellectual history, the Quranic scholarship and the Islamic intellectual tradition in the Indo-Pak subcontinent.

His valuable contribution to the field comes out from an array of reviews by various scholars on his books, which constitute Appendix (pp. 571-619) of the book under review.

The book also contains a Foreword by Dr. Junaid S. Ahmad (pp.11-14) wherein he describes Parray’s book as a “monumental accomplishment” and a “scholarly documentation and analysis par excellence” (p. 12) and a Prologue—“Islamic Sources and Thought and Contemporary Issues in the 21st Century” (pp. 15-18) and detailed Introduction (pp. 23-39) by the author in which he presents an overview of the “Quantum of (the Western) Scholarship on ‘Islam’ in the 21st Century” as well as presents the context and contribution of the present book.

Tracking down and scrutinizing the latest 125 important publications on Islamic studies speaks volumes about Parray’s conscientiousness, sincerity of purpose and devotion to scholarship. His genuine and keen interest in the subject is both impressive and inspiring. Equally admirable and commendable is the breadth and range of his ken. Works by both the Western and Muslim world have received his attention as his analytical reviews on these have been appearing regularly in the reputed periodicals published across the world. Moreover, he has been contributing his write ups and reviews to local and national dailies, magazines and portals as well.

A special mention should be made of the section-I devoted to his critique on the current Quranic scholarship, “Books on the Quran/ Quranic Studies” (pp. 40-147). Discerningly he has evaluated the recent English translations of the Quran by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, Tarif Khalidi, Ahmad Zaki Hammad, W. Davood Peachy and Johani, Mustafa Khattab, Abdur Raheem Kidwai and Waleed B. Al-Amri. He has ably assessed the art and craft of these translators and ascertained as to how far these cater to the needs of readers in today’s context. Equipped with his thorough knowledge of the leading translations, he, at times, carries out a comparative study of a translation under review in order to bring out its relative strengths and weaknesses (See pp. 45, 57-58 and 66-67). This underscores his seriousness of purpose and predilection for objectivity and empirical inferencing.

Amid the significant Quranic studies critically examined by Parray are the works of Andrew Rippin (Blackwell Companion to the Quran, 2006), Jane D. McAuliffe (Cambridge Companion to the Quran and Encyclopedia of the Quran, 2006) and Ziauddin Sardar (Reading the Quran, 2015). However, the works of these authors need to be analysed more critically and in more detailed manner. Parray would have done well to expose more vigorously the dogmatic presuppositions and anti-Islam thrust of such writings. Summarizing their contents, without delving deep into their tendentious agenda, does not do justice to readers for the above-mentioned works, regrettably, project a picture which is discordant with truth.

It is gratifying that Parray has admirably introduced the fruits of scholarship in these ground-breaking Sirah studies in Section-II, “Seerah: Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) Biography”: M. Yasin Mazhar Siddiqi’s The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)—A Role Model for Muslim Minorities (2006) and How the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Earned and Spent Money: A Critical Study (2019) and John V. Tolan’s Faces of Muhammad: Western Perceptions of the Prophet of Islam (2019). While Siddiqi has presented the Prophetic model to be emulated in today’s world by all Muslims, Tolan, has extended upon the contribution of his illustrious, well-meaning Western scholars like Norman Daniel, W. M. Watt, Mathew Dimmock and Fredrick Quinn in laying bare the “history of misconceptions” in the West regarding Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The latest name in this galaxy is of Dr. Craig Considine (Rice University, USA) who has recently brought out two brilliant eye opening studies on Sirah: Prophet Muhammad: Prophet of Humanity (2020) and People of the Book: Prophet Muhammad’ Encounters with Christians (2021).

Of special interest is the section-VI, “Islam and Contemporary Issues” which deals with the new works on the issues of modernity, Ulema in contemporary Islam, dissent and dialogue, civil society, Islamic resurgence, women empowerment, human rights, Islamic radicalism, multiculturalism and Islam in Europe. Parray’s discussion on these timely topics and discourses is both enlightening and instructive for readers.

Another valuable section (“Contemporary Muslim World”, section-VII) is the elucidation of area studies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Arab world. Likewise, he offers much for reflection in his comprehensive study of such Muslim stalwarts, thinkers and activists like Palestinian-American Ismail Raji Al-Faruqi, Egyptian Muhammad Abdhu, Pakistani-American Fazlur Rahman, Indian Abul Kalam Azad and the Tunisian political thinker and activist Rashid Al-Ghannushi.

The inclusion of Index, referring to the personalities and themes under discussion would have made the work reader friendly. In sum, Dr. Parray’s book stands out as a testament to his broad sweep of reading, his insightful comments on authors’ methodology and approaches and his precious, handy gift to the students of Islamic studies to keep themselves abreast of the main contours and debates in the field.

A word of appreciation for the publisher, Ahsan Academy of Research (Springs, South Africa) which under the stewardship of a renowned scholar of Islamic Studies, Dr Abdul Kader Choughley, has enriched the domain of the Islamic intellectual tradition, particularly of the Indo-Pak subcontinent with its scores of quality publications in the last five years.

Prof. Abdur Raheem Kidwai is (Honory) Director, K. A. Nizami Centre for Quranic Studies, Aligarh Muslim University, India

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