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"Scriptural Polemics. The Qur’an and Other Religions" by Mun’im Sirry (June 2014)

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SIRRY Mun’im, Scriptural Polemics: The Qur’an and Other Religions, Oxford University Press, 2014, 336 p. ISBN 978-0-19-935936-3


A number of passages in the Qur’an contain doctrinal and cultural criticism of Jews and Christians, from exclusive salvation and charges of Jewish and Christian falsification of revelation to cautions against the taking of Jews and Christians as patrons, allies, or intimates. Mun’im Sirry offers a novel exploration of these polemical passages, which have long been regarded as obstacles to peaceable interreligious relations, through the lens of twentieth-century tafsir (exegesis). He considers such essential questions as: How have modern contexts shaped Muslim reformers’ understanding of the Qur’an, and how have the reformers’ interpretations recontextualized these passages? Can the Qur’an’s polemical texts be interpreted fruitfully for interactions among religious communities in the modern world?

Sirry also reflects on the various definitions of apologetic or polemic as relevant sacred texts and analyzes reformist tafsirs with careful attention to argument, literary context, and rhetoric in order to illuminate the methods, positions, and horizons of the exegeses. Scriptural Polemics provides both a critical engagement with the tafsirs and a lucid and original sounding of Qur’anic language, logic, and dilemmas, showing how the dynamic and varied reformist intepretations of these passages open the way for a less polemical approach to other religions.


Mun’im Sirry est Maitre de conference a l’Universite de Notre Dame (Indiana, USA)



1. Chapter One: The Qur’an and Modern Tafsir
a. Islamic Reform, Tafsir, and Religious Diversity
b. Reformist Muslim Approach to Medieval Qur’an Commentaries
c. Concluding Remarks

2. Chapter Two: Towards Understanding the Qur’an’s Polemical Texts
a. The Qur’an and Its Polemical Context
b. The Ambiguity of Qur’anic Criticisms
c. Is the Qur’an Supersessionist?
d. Concluding Remarks

3. Chapter Three: Contesting the Theology of Exclusivist Salvation
a. Al-Islam as the Only True Path to Salvation
b. Between Inclusive and Exclusive Islam
c. Re-Interpreting the Superiority of Islam
d. Concluding Remarks

4. Chapter Four: The Falsification of Jewish and Christian Scriptures
a. The Charge of Scriptural Distortion
b. The Concealment of Truth
c. Between Twisting the Tongues and Writing the Book with Hands
d. Concluding Remarks

5. Chapter Five: Qur’anic Denials of Sonship, Human-Divinity and Trinity
a. ’’Son of God’’
b. The Divine Nature of Jesus
c. Trinitarian Doctrine
d. Concluding Remarks

6. Chapter Six: Inter-Religious Restrictions and Engagements
a. Treatment of Non-Muslim Dhimmis
b. Friendship with the Unbelievers
c. Obstacles to Inter-Religious Relations
d. Concluding Remarks



 Interprets and contextualizes significant modern commentaries on the Qur’an

 Focuses on five essential issues: scriptural supercessionism, exclusive salvation, charges regarding the Jewish and Christian falsification of revelation, criticisms over divine sonship and the Trinity, and cautions or prohibitions regarding the taking Jews and Christians as patrons, allies, or intimates