• The Digital Mufassir: Re-imagining the Tafsir of al-Alusi for a New Era

    Sohaib Saeed (see profile)
    Qurʼan, Criticism and interpretation, Sacred works, Digital humanities, Turkish literature, 1288-1918
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Qur'an, Exegesis, Ottoman literature
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    The eminent Baghdadi scholar Mahmud al-Alusi (1802–1854) is best known for producing a voluminous Qur’an commentary which has influenced subsequent works in the Islamic East and West. While connected firmly to the exegetical tradition and particularly his Ottoman predecessor Ebu's-su'ud Efendi (1490–1574), al-Alusi’s Ruh al-Ma’ani represents a landmark in terms of its composition which has not yet met its match in print. The work presents his own exegetical choices alongside a wide range of views on every question. As though to synthesise the whole hashiyah tradition, al-Alusi summarises the back-and-forth of complex debates, together with his own judgments and critiques. This is complemented by spiritual reflections representing an alternative approach to reading the Qur’an. These features make Ruh al-Ma’ani an ideal case study of the multifaceted nature of tafsir authorship and the challenges of navigating the exegetical corpus. Therefore, this paper posits an intriguing scenario: what if al-Alusi were to compose this work today, with the latest digital tools at his disposal? How could the materials he wishes to include be analysed and presented even better than the longitudinal book format allowed him in reality? This question allows us to consider new typologies of tafsir material and how these can be optimised for contemporary students of the Qur’an and the exegetical tradition. As well as proposing methods of categorising and presenting tafsir questions and diverse opinions, we imagine how our modern-day al-Alusi could utilise translation to make his commentary both clearer and more open to the world.
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    Last Updated:
    1 year ago
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