Michel Cuypers, Le Festin. Une lecture de la sourate Al-Mâ’ida. Deuxième édition revue et corrigée, RBSem 10, Peeters, Leuven 2017 (453 p.)
The growing number of readers of the Qur’an soon come up against a major difficulty: the apparent lack of order in the book makes it very difficult to follow the thread and quickly causes discouragement and weariness. Modern orientalism, centered until recently on the historical criticism of the text
has reinforced the idea that it would only be a collection of fragments put together without order or logic. The present work proposes a completely new approach by applying principles of analysis that have proved their worth in the biblical field and are perfectly adequate for Quranic exegesis. Michel Cuypers demonstrates this here on a long sura, reputed to be particularly confusing: on analysis, however, it appears to be solidly constructed according to the principles of Semitic rhetoric which also govern biblical texts. The textual analysis is enriched by an attention to the numerous relationships of the Koranic text with the Bible and para-biblical literature: rabbinic writings, intertestamental writings, apocrypha. The Qur’an “rereads” these documents, known to the Near Eastern world in which it was born: far from reducing them, it adapts them to its own theological vision, so that here too, the relationship of the text to its (external) context sheds light on its meaning.
These analyses allow for a nuanced and often renewed interpretation, which, unexpectedly, often joins that of the “new thinkers of Islam”: isn’t their essential claim precisely a renewed interpretation of the Koran, based on the achievements of modern criticism?
Preface by Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, of the École Pratique des Hautes Études