Developing my Topic

I’ve taken a break from putting up my old MA essays though I do intend to put them all up eventually. I’m trying to get stuck into narrowing down my research topic so I can get a proper plan and timetable together. My focus seems to change all the time at the moment, but I’m sure I want to deal with Qur’anic social ethics in some form. Here’s a recent couple of paragraphs I wrote in a document called PhD Notes 1 which has now reached 4000 words:

I am interested in studying the specific manner in which the Qur’anic language, rhetoric and composition presents social ethics, or as M. A. Draz puts it ‘collective and universal virtue’ and its relationship to a Qur’anic ethical theory. The Qur’anic address speaks to the believers, yet is also addressed to all humanity despite being revealed in Arabic. This touches on the issue of the problem of claiming ‘universality’ for any discourse which is – necessarily – grounded in a particular language and cultural environment.

I will contend that while these social ethical precepts are well known as individual statements, it has been rare to study them as they occur within the context of their passages, surahs and the Qur’an as a whole. An interesting conceptual approach is that the Qur’anic verses, as revealed in sections, gave ethical instruction within the context of the developing life of the nascent Muslim community and its allies/opponents. However, the compositional structure of the completed Qur’an can be seen as giving ethical instruction for all future times, both to the community and universally. This makes use of a theoretical and a theological approach. Theoretically, nazm (compositional) theory needs to be utilised extensively. Theologically, the rationally universal dimension of Qur’anic ethics can be difficult to argue except from the Maturidi school’s approach, as for a non-believer the ethical side must be presented according to rationality and the idea that the human mind is capable of judging on this basis. In other words there is a difference between saying “Accept these Qur’anic ethics because they come from God” and “Accept these Qur’anic ethics because of these reasons”. Of course, the Qur’an says both, which to some extent explains the existence of the Ashari and Maturidi positions on the matter.


3 thoughts on “Developing my Topic

  1. Salaam,

    This might not be directly related to your field of research, but I just wanted to know your thoughts on the works of the late Toshihiko Izutsu, and especially his book “Ethico Religious Concepts in the Quran”.

    Nice blog, Masha’allah,


  2. Salam,

    Thanks for the feedback and encouragement. I have drawn from Izutsu’s methodology in my research, and found benefit in it, alhamdulillah. I do disagree with aspects of his theoretical model, and as you asked, I have posted something that I wrote last year, which deals with some of the issues at stake. These are mainly in response to his earlier ‘The Structure of Ethical Terms’, rather then ‘Ethico-Religious Concepts’, as he seems to set out his theoretical assumptions and methodology (my focus) more fully in the earlier work.

    Don’t forget to visit the relaunched in the beginning of January for many of my (and others!) articles.


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