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Rhetoric, Logic and Biblical Interpretation in the exegetical work of Burhān ad-Dīn al-Biqāʾī (st. 1480)

Subproject by Dr. Islam Dayeh

The project explores the interplay of rhetoric, logic and biblical interpretation in the exegetical works of the Muslim scholar Burhan al-Din al-Biqa’i (d. 885AH/1480CE), who composed two exegetical works over the course of 20 years, thus proving his erudition and mastery over the Arabic sciences of his day. By tracing the numerous rhetorical and hermeneutical theories that informed al-Biqai’s work, the project argues that contrary to first appearances medieval exegesis on scripture (tafsir) exhibits a form of literary criticism wherein seemingly ‘modernist’ notions such as textual coherence, translatability and reference appear to have been at the centre of the exegetical exercise. The project stresse the importance of studying medieval commentary on their own terms and according to their own historicity, rather than in relation to the canonical text (i.e. the Qur’an, in this case), as so often is the case with ‘modernist’ commentary. In this perspective, medieval commentary is studied in relation to the hermeneutical approaches and theological and philosophical arguments that shaped the expectations and horizons of the interpretative community. Only through a careful examination of the textual practices and the institutional conditions that made a commentary possible can the creativity, literary playfulness and significance of premodern scriptural commentary be properly appreciated.

This project is part of a larger study of the intellectual cosmos of the Cairene-Damascene exegete, philologist, geometrician, logician and historian Burhan al-Din al-Biqai (1406-1480).