Title: ‘Ulum al-Qur’an
Author: Ahmad Von Denffer
Publication: The Islamic Foundation 1983 (Revised 1994)
Reviewed by: Safwan
An introduction to the sciences (‘ulum) of the Qur’an includes the development of the disciplines and branches of knowledge related to the understanding of the Qur’an. Interestingly, Ahmad Von Denffer has succeeded in putting this heavy and broad subject into simple writing; being concise, brief, and yet comprehensive.
After defining and making distinct what are Qur’an, Hadith, and Hadith Qudsi, the first few chapters deal with the history of Qur’anic revelation, and later how it was memorized, preserved, compiled and book-ed. The latter tasks, which was undertaken and headed by Zaid bin Thabit al-Ansari, was extremely burdening, although far from impossible. The author then takes us to and through the ‘variants’ that existed between copies of personal Qur’an and the recognized standardized collection; and showed how (insignificantly) they varied, and (even so) how they were destroyed.
Besides the above, the subject of understanding and interpreting the text was also dealt with much attention. This book explains on the concepts, principles and debates on asbab al-nuzul, al-nasikh wa al-mansukh, variant modes and readings, and translation of the sacred text. On tafsir, the different approaches are laid out, helping readers to understand and appreciate their significance and importance.
Among other topics discussed are miracles, past and contemporary, of the Qur’an. The Holy Book contains prophesies; some are proven to be true, while some are waiting for events to unfold, anytime. Moreover, the literary aspect of the Qur’an is unchallenged, both to the people of the past and our proud generation, nor will anyone in the future succeed in producing anything equal in content and composition. Yet with these numerous miracles, more is disclosed to us as we advance into the century. More recently, computer and scientific studies only add to the greatness of the revered Book.
For completeness, discussions on Orientalism, manners, and approach to the Qur’an were briefly included. More is of course to be read from other works, if a student of the Qur’an seeks to gain what is best attainable from it.