In the interpretation of the Koran, attention is currently very much focused on new hermeneutical approaches.
If, however, new impulses are only expected in relatively modern commentaries or currently contemporary new approaches to hermeneutics, hitherto little-researched works of commentary literature are in danger of being lost from view, even though many a relevant interpretation of the Qur'an could still be found here.
Thus, a work that bears witness to how a Muslim scholar made extensive use of the Bible to comment on the Koran also deserves attention. His work is unique in this respect and has been much neglected in research. Before presenting al-Biqāʿī (st. 1480) and his work in more detail, a historical introduction is useful for a better understanding of his relevance.
Al-Biqāʿī uses the Bible primarily by quoting the Old Testament and the four Gospels at length in Koranic passages that have a biblical reference. He found the Bible helpful in elucidating the meaning of numerous coranic passages that contain echoes of biblical narratives, which the first coranic listeners assumed were already known. In order to be able to draw on this a few centuries later, al-Biqāʿī argued that Mohammad and the first generations of Muslims, as well as leading scholars of later generations, had consulted the Bible. A Muslim with knowledge of the Koran could well know what in the currently available Bible texts was part of the original divine revelation and what was the product of textual distortion. The Koran, coranic commentary (tafsîr) and Bible, as well as Islamic and Christian theology and prophetology, are thus interrelated.
Furthermore, this research is also relevant for the internal social relationship of contemporary Muslim-Christian coexistence, as it provides new empirical material for the jointly shared textual history.
Al-Biqāʿī's commentary can thus also be given more visibility again, so that Muslim theologians might also refer to it more strongly and discuss how his approach could also fertilise contemporary coranic hermeneutics. Research on this topic has a high political and social relevance worldwide, but especially in Lebanon.
Author: Dr. Thomas Würtz