, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 637-639
Date: 05 Oct 2010

Review of Avital Wohlman, Al-Ghazali, Averroës and the Interpretation of the Qur'an: Common Sense and Philosophy in Islam, Translated by David Burrell

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David Burrell provides a translation of Avital Wohlman’s French study focusing on the Decisive Treatise Distinguishing between Islam and Heresy (Fayṣal al-Tafriqa bayn al-Islām wa-al-Zandaqa) by al-Ghazali (d. 1111) and the Decisive Criterion Establishing the Relationship between Revelation and Philosophy (Faṣl al-Maqāl wa-Taqrīr Mā bayn al-Sharī‘a wa–al–Ḥikma min al–Ittiṣal) by Averroës (Ibn Rushd, d. 1198). In six short chapters, Wohlman succinctly analyzes their historical contexts and approaches to scriptural interpretation along with accompanying conceptions of interpretive authorities and communities. She contrasts the polyvalent and benignly elitist philosophical hermeneutics of Averroës with what she characterizes as the egalitarian common sense approach, opposed to philosophy, by al-Ghazali.

Rather than a debate between the authority of reason and revelation, Wohlman presents her thesis as a consideration of the place of reason in human experience and society, referencing the t