Chapter

The Self-Referentiality of the Qurʼān: Sura 3:7 as an Exegetical Challenge

Stefan Wild

in With Reverence for the Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195137279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849482 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195137279.003.0027
The Self-Referentiality of the Qurʼān: Sura 3:7 as an Exegetical Challenge

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The self-referentiality of the Qurʼān is increasingly viewed as one of its central features. Given the fact that the Qurʼān is primarily a text to be recited to an audience, this self-referentiality reflects a constant challenge in which the audience questions the Qurʼānic recitation and that Qurʼānic recitation, in turn, reacts. Some of the terms with which the Qurʼānic revelation referred to itself seemed to later generations to be contradictory or at least in need of clarification. “The Qurʼān” was “sent down” in a single night of one month, yet it was revealed to the prophet Muhammad during a long period of time. The locus classicus in which the Qurʼānic revelation sets the tone for the history of Qurʼānic exegesis is Sūra 3:7. John Wansbrough once called this verse, with its distinction between “clear” and “ambiguous” verses, “a passage, unanimously agreed to represent the point of departure for all scriptural exegesis”. This chapter examines the scriptural prehistory of this verse and places it within the broader perspective of the self-referential character of many Qurʼānic passages.

Keywords: Qurʼān; self-referentiality; exegesis; verses; prehistory; Sūra 3:7; John Wansbrough; Muhammad

Chapter.  8257 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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