chapter  9
22 Pages

Muhammad 'Izzat Darwaza's principles of modern exegesis: A contribution toward quranic hermeneutics

Among the numerous writings of the well-known Palestinian-Arab political figure, educator, and historian, Mul;lammad 'Izzat Darwaza (1888-1984),1 is a voluminous ta/sir of the aur'an. Like many Muslim religious and politicalleaders2 Darwaza had discovered the aur'an in a new and compelling way during his incarceration in the prisons of Damascus by the French military authorities on the pretext of inciting people against British rule in Palestine. Although the British suppression of the Palestinian revolt of 1936 abruptly terminated Darwaza's active political career, his imprisonment in Damascus marks the beginning of a new life wherein the aur'an became his major concern for the next several years. Describing the role of the aur'an in his private and public life, Darwaza states:

Since my youth I was fascinated by the aur'an.1 savoured its wonderful and wise style in its various subject matters: its call [to worship one God], its guidance and its pronouncements. I, therefore, consulted a number of commentaries and other Arabic books, both ancient and modern, dealing with the aur'an, its principles and objectives as well as the controversy surrounding [its revelation]. [ Consequently, ] I was able to demonstrate many of its ethical, social, and spiritual marvels. The aur'an served as a guide during [various] circumstances of my life, the years of my educational career and [political] struggle. Then, my imprisonment in Damascus by the French authorities before the Second World War,3 because of the Palestine revolt, provided me with an opportunity [to read and reflect upon the Qur'an]. I seized this chance and considered it as an auspicious occasion to get myself occupied with the aur'an more than before and to serve its cause. On the one hand, I considered [this opportunity] an act of divine [favour] and started reading whatever books of exegesis and quranic studies

were accessible to me. On the other hand, during this time I compiled three books dealing with the Our'an}

The idea of writing a modern taftir, according to his own statement, was conceived following the completion of the first drafts of those three works in the Damascus prison. After his release from prison Darwaza was unable to return to Nablus because the British authorities had issued an order preventing him from entering the country; hence he left for Turkey and stayed there until the end of 1945. His long sojourn in Turkey with its rich libraries gave him another opportunity to realize his dream of writing a modern exegesis. It was in Bursa that he completed the rough draft of his ta/sir entitledAI-Tafsir al-laadith. Describing his objectives and the audience to which it is addressed, he states:

After we had completed the [aforecited] three works, the idea of writing a comprehensive exegesis, with a view to introduce the whole Qur'in, following those parts which we had presented according to the subject matter in those three books, occurred to us. In [this exegesis] we would uncover the wisdom of revelation, the fundamental concepts of the Our'an, and the whole range of its subject-matter [and present it] in a new style and new sequential order.' It would [also] respond to the urgently felt need of most of our youth, who complain about the traditional style [of the commentaries] and turn away from them. [This, in turn, ] has led them to sever their relation with the sacred book of their religion, which calls for concern and grief,li

After he had completed a rough draft of the taft;r, Darwaza wrote another volume, entitled AI-Qur'tin al-majid, as an introduction to the former. It is this latter work wherein Darwaza outlined his methodology for a modern exegesis. The purpose of this study is, therefore, to scrutinize what the author calls 'the exemplary method for understanding the Our'an and for its exegesis,' and to evaluate his contribution towards quranic hermeneutics.