The issues mentioned above were obvious to the first recipients of the Koran in the seventh century. The Koran belonged at the centre of their lives, where they experienced the presence of God. As an expression of his loving and merciful nature, God engaged with humanity. It is therefore up to modern-day Muslims to decide whether they choose to understand the Koran as an instruction manual or as Godʹs self-communication.

If the Koran is to be understood as a set of instructions, Muslims have only the task of transferring the text with its message from the 7th century to today. For example, Nasr Abu Zaid and the theologians of the Ankara School understand their task as Koran exegesis.

But if the Koran is read as an encounter with the presence of God, as was the interpretation among the early community surrounding Muhammad, one can perceive the call for freedom which compels one towards "emotional transformation" in order to achieve absolute proximity to God.

In mercy, Khorchide sees a hermeneutical key through which Koranic revelation can be experienced. The encounter with God is to be understood as "the guiding principle of living reality" and a Muslim life as "witness to this loving mercy". Only in this way can Godʹs mercy be perpetuated in the lives of believers as a living expression of the Koran.

To counter any accusation of arbitrariness, Khorchide, much like the Cairo-based Koranic scholar Halafallah (1916-1991), suggests that the Koran must be classified in the correct historical context along the chronology of revelation in order to reveal its "original level of meaning".

The next step is to transfer this original code to the contemporary horizon of understanding. This is to be achieved without, however, reducing the Koran to a single interpretation, such as, for example, a sole ethical dimension.

A single interpretation would, after all, not do justice to the inexhaustible omnipotence of God. The omnipotence of God consists precisely in the fact that he has destined humankind for freedom. This is the best way for people to develop intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. Individuals need to draw strength from this transcendental encounter, realising this loving mercy as a creative act in their own lives.

In the first volume of Herderʹs Theological Commentary on the Koran, Mouhanad Khorchide employs a religiously and scientifically coherent method to prove that German-language Islamic Studies research can provide a significant contribution to Koranic study worldwide.

It seems likely that each subsequent volume of this planned commentary will kindle a controversial and productive discussion among Muslims and other religious groups alike.

Musa Bagrac

© 2019

Translated from the German by Ayca Turkoglu

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