Islamic research in Germany: A new Qur’anic commentary – and old questions of politicization


Islamic research in Germany: A new Qur’anic commentary – and old questions of politicization

Austrian theologian Mouhanad Khorchide, professor for Islamic religious pedagogy and director of the Centre for Islamic Theology at the University of Münster in Germany, has published the first part of a wide-ranging commentary of the Qur’an – a project that is to comprise 17 volumes upon completion.

The book – titled God’s Revelation in the Words of Mankind: The Qur’an in the Light of Mercy – advocates for a what it presents as a dialogical, open approach to Islam’s holiest book. Monological understandings, according to Khorchide, conceive of the Quran as a legal manual, unidirectionally informing believers how to organize the particulars of their daily lives.

Khorchide’s ambition is instead to showcase the Quran’s larger ethical dimension: with the Quran being an ongoing dialogue between God and humanity, Khorchide stresses the openness of the text to different interpretations.

The blueprint for this research agenda is derived from the ‘historical-critical method’ of Bible studies, as developed in 18th– and 19th-century Germany. This locates the Quranic commentary squarely in a quintessentially German scientific landscape, as it engages above all with German and German-language authors from (non-Islamic) theologies.

In the past, Khorshide’s methodological orientation – broadly shared by his Centre for Islamic Theology at large – has caused major controversy among Muslim commentators in Germany. The country’s largest Islamic associations have criticized Khorshide’s interpretations as too free-wheeling, lacking in theological substance, and – perhaps above all – as politically opportunistic. Their attempts to have Khorshide removed from his university chair have failed, however. The accusations directed at Khorchide have at times been hysterical and unfair. However, even some of those who, like Khorchide, find the theological offerings of Germany’s large Islamic associations unsatisfactory, have come to see the Münster theologian’s work with a sceptical eye…


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