The audio from my paper on ‘Orphans in the Qur’an – Justice between Generations’, delivered as part of the SOAS Conference ‘The Qur’an: Text, Society & Culture’ in November 2013 is up on the SOAS website. The link is here: http://www.soas.ac.uk/islamicstudies/conferences/quran2013/ (I speak last on Panel 13: Ethics II, which is right at the bottom of the page).
By the grace of God, I passed my recent viva, held at SOAS. The external examiner was Ian Netton (Exeter), a very senior academic and intellectual historian. The internal examiner was Ian Edge (SOAS), an academic and practising lawyer, specialising in Islamic law. It was a very friendly and positive session, although aspects of my approach, particularly my use of Hadith, were of course challenged. As well as defending my methodology, I tried to take on board their constructive and informed criticism. By the end of the viva, it was made clear that much of their comments were offered to help me think about taking the work forward to future publication and they did not require me to make corrections on my PhD itself. I am soon submitting the final hard-bound copy of my dissertation, which will lead to award of the formal doctorate, inshallah.
This is a key quotation by Badr al-Din al-Islahi, which I have preliminarily translated from Arabic, in which he critiques the Qur’anic commentators that came before Abd al-Hamid al-Farahi for their limitation in understanding the scripture’s composition (nazm/nizam):
‘Despite their appreciated effort, their exertion was not spent except in disclosing the coherence between adjacent verses, or the following and previous surahs, and they did not make an examination in regard to the coherence with which the speech is composed from its beginning to its end so that it becomes a single piece. Therefore, they were content with merely explaining the coherence between them [verses and surahs] without looking to a general, comprehensive command for everything that the verse or the surah comprises. For this reason they did not hit the mark in most places, rather they proceeded haphazardly. That was because most of the verses and likewise most of the surahs also are not connected in every place, rather the following verse or surah perhaps is connected with that some way before it, so the one searching for coherence between them whilst lacking [knowledge] of their flow, how can he be guided to their composition? And how can he understand their objective? So if he proceeds at random in regard to them it is not at all strange.’ [al-Farahi, Dala’il al-Nizam, p. 4]