Reading the Qur’an in the Twenty-First Century considers the development of Qur’anic interpretation and highlights modern debates around new approaches to interpretation. It explores how Muslims from various theological, legal, socio-political and philosophical backgrounds think about the meaning and relevance of the Qur’an, and how their ideas apply in the contemporary world.
Contextualism provides a critical alternative for contemporary Muslims to textualism, the dominant mode of interpretation of the Qur’an today. Textualism ranges on a continuum from approaches that place an almost exclusive reliance on the literal meaning of the Qur’anic text (‘hard textualism’) to perspectives that take some contextual elements into account and so provide a degree of interpretive flexibility (‘soft textualism’). There are a number of political, intellectual and cultural reasons for the prominence and popularity of textualist (particularly the ‘hard textualist’) approach to the interpretation of the Qur’an today.