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The denial of supernatural sorcery in classical and modern Sunni tafsir of surah al-Falaq: A reflection on underlying constructions

One of the main trends in Islamic modernism is the pursuit of rational exegesis of the Qur’an. As a response to this trend many of these Sunni Islamic modernists have been accused of being neo-Mu’tazilites because of their use of independent reason, the historicizing of the Qur’an, the emphasis on metaphorical interpretation of verses with supernaturalistic contents, the de-emphasizing of tradition, and the use of non-Islamic sources and thought. The similarities between modernists and classical rationalistic schools are seen in their exegeses on verse 113:4 wherein the dominant traditional interpretation of supernatural sorcery is denied. This paper tries to show that the reason why many forms of Islamic modernism are labelled as modern versions of Mu’tazilism is not because modernists consciously or unconsciously adopt Mu’tazilism, but because they have similarities in the way they view nature. It is from this shared view on nature from which spring similar consequences in the acceptance of objective ethics, de-emphasizing supernaturalism, and emphasizing the rationality and superiority of the Qur’an compared to other sources within the Islamic tradition.

Arnold Yasin Mol, “The denial of supernatural sorcery in classical and modern Sunni tafsir of surah al-Falaq: A reflection on underlying constructions”, Al-Bayan journal of Quran and Hadith studies, Volume 11, 2013.

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