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date: 07 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The question of iʿjāz al-Qurʾān, or the inimitability of the Qur’an, from the time of the first revelations and to this day, has been central both to the formulation of Islamic theological thought, or kalām, and to the emergence and development of Classical Arabic literary and rhetorical theories. And just as the first attempts at explaining the miraculous nature of the Qur’an had naturally to develop a new language of systematic reflection that is fundamentally linguistic and rhetorical in nature but theological in its thrust, so too did the literary approaches that began to emerge early in the twentieth century. Modern literary approaches have since had to face the same double challenge: literarily, the challenge is how to develop a critical theoretical language with which to approach the singularity of a text (let alone its unique modes of reception), but hermeneutically, the challenge emerges in the struggle to account for the theological dimension of the experience that such an exceptionally matchless text elicits. The chapter’s aim is therefore not so much to rehearse the full history of iʿjāz discussions, already well covered in Qur’anic Studies, as to revisit the discussions from the centralizing challenge of the unique nexus of the theological and the literary in Islamic traditions.

Keywords: iʿjāz, inimitability of the Qur’an, hermeneutics, theology, literary approaches

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