BOOK REVIEW:  Ulum AI-Qur’an: An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an *

BOOK REVIEW:  Ulum AI-Qur’an: An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an, by Ahmad Von Denffer, Islamic Foundation, London, 189 pages.

Reviewed by Jamari Mohtar

Ahmad Yon Denffer’s book comes at a time when there is a great need for a book on the “sciences” of, or knowledge about the Qur’an. This study, known in Arabic as “Ulum Al-Quran” has been undertaken during the lifetime of the Prophet himself, and books on the subject have been complied as early as the first century of Hijra. However, these texts have been written in Arabic and other Muslim languages. At a time when English is increasingly used as a medium of instruction, the necessity of a book on the sciences of the Qur’an in the language is deeply felt.

Ahmad Yon Denffer’s work is the first book in a European language on this subject. Indeed, the author has rendered a great service especially to the average English reader, who usually has no linguistic access to an Arabic text. So, Ulum AlQur’an would be of valuable assistance in our striving towards a better understanding of the Qur’anic message. The author, in fact, has targeted his work at a special readership -educated young Muslims, who have little or no access to the original sources on the subject. Because of this, he has included several topics especially relevant to this audience, such as “Orientalist and the Qur’an”, “Translation of the Qur’an”, “language of the Qur’an” and “reading and Recitation of the Qur’an.’

For the Muslim, the approach to the Qur’an is divided into three stages: receiving the message, understanding it and applying the message to our lives. A study of the Qur’ an can be used as a means to accomplish the second stage. A better understanding of the Qur’anic message can best be achieved by gaining an insight into the setting, framework and circumstances of the revelations, as well as the divisions, style and literary form of the text. These aspects of the Qur’an have been dealt with in detail in the book.

A commendable feature of this work is its presentation and organization. Each aspect of the Qur’an is discussed in a chapter, which is further subdivided into further details, the subheadings are boldfaced, and explanations are generally short and precise. This facilitates reading and research and is especially suitable for the student. It is also noted that the author has made a special attempt to present only the generally accepted views on issues, and in cases where no consensus has been reached, referred only to the most important of divergent opinions. This approach is appropriate, especially since this book is to be a beginner, on the different interpretations and schools of thought of scholars.

The author has provided his readers with many useful tips in his conclusion on how to get the most of the study of the Qur’an. Those interested in upgrading their knowledge of God’s communication with Man would find this a valuable book to read and study.

Originally published in the Winter 1993 print edition of The American Muslim.