Briercrest professor contributes to greater understanding of the Qur'an

Posted: April 25, 2008

Dr. Alan M. GuentherOur own Dr. Alan M. Guenther has partnered with other graduates from the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University to help scholars recognize the diversity of practice within Islam, and in particular, in the interpretation and use of the Qur'an. Coming to Terms With the Qur'an, a volume compiled in honour of McGill professor Issa J. Boullata and to which Guenther made a significant contribution, was released at the beginning of April.

The volume is a collection of essays written by former students and friends of Boullata, who taught at McGill's Institute of Islamic Studies for 30 years. The collection is "a tribute to the way in which [he] has affected the academic study of the Qur'an in Canada, the United States, Indonesia, and around the world" (back cover).

"By default, we assume that a Muslim approaches the Qur'an as we as Protestant Evangelicals approach the Bible," said Guenther. "It is helpful to examine how Muslims, or particular groups of Muslims, actually do interpret their scriptures and what other use they make of [them] in their religious practice."

As a doctoral student at McGill, Guenther was originally asked to be a full editor of the volume. He worked with Khaleel Mohammed to recruit another editor and begin contacting others who had studied under Boullata to solicit contributions.

Because of his work on his doctoral dissertation, Guenther eventually had to step down as a full editor, but he did continue to do some of the editing work, assisting three of the other contributors and submitting an essay entitled "Tablighi Jamaat and the Qur'an." It was originally written as a term paper for Boullata's class Modern Qur'an Exegesis in 1998.

"Academically, Prof. Boullata showed me the importance of understanding the Qur'an through the commentaries written by Muslims throughout history rather than through my own hermeneutic," said Guenther. "I as a non-Muslim cannot assume that I can pick up a Qur'an and correctly interpret its meaning without any reference to the centuries of Qur'anic commentary produced by Muslim exegetes.

"As a Palestinian Christian, he demonstrated his sincere respect and appreciation for Muslims in the high level of his own scholarship on the Qur'an, in his comments in class as a professor, and in his personal relationships with Muslims, all while maintaining a consistent Christian witness," he continued. "I seek to emulate these qualities."

Coming to Terms With the Qu'ran is available in the Archibald Library, to order at the Briercrest College and Seminary Bookstore, or to purchase on-line.