Submitted by Tariq Jaffer on Wednesday, 9/2/2015, at 11:30 AM

My first book project, Rāzī: Master of Qurʾānic Interpretation and Theological Reasoning (Oxford University Press, 2015), focused on Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 1210), a towering Muslim intellectual whose writings mark a momentous turning point in the Islamic tradition. Rāzī was a leading representative of Sunnī orthodoxy in medieval Islam. Imbued with the heritage of Greek learning and inculcated with an Islamic education, he was the first intellectual to exploit the rich heritage of ancient and Islamic philosophy to interpret the Qurʾān; and he was the first to forge a methodology that unites reason (ʿaql) and scripture (naql).

My monograph explored Rāzī’s intellectual project, which was one of the most ambitious in the history of Islam. Its principal aim was to examine Rāzī’s boldly unconventional intellectual project and to situate it within the broader arc of the Islamic tradition. While previous scholarship in the field of Rāzī studies concentrated on ethics, logic, and epistemology, extremely little attention had been devoted to Rāzī’s magnum opus—his Qurʾān commentary—and on the pivotal role that it played in Islamic intellectual history. I focused mainly on Rāzī’s Qurʾān commentary.

My broad objectives were to explain how Rāzī used the Qurʾān to express his philosophical theology; how Rāzī resolved major methodological conflicts concerning the application of intellect or reason (ʿaql) to scripture (naql); and how he devised rules and principles of Qurʾānic interpretation by assimilating methods and ideas from diverse intellectual currents into Sunnī theology and exegesis. My ultimate goal was to chart the process through which Rāzī appropriated ideas from Aristotelian-Avicennian philosophy (as well as Muʿtazilism) and naturalized them into Sunnī theology and exegesis. 

My second book-length study traces the theme of “covenant” in Islamic intellectual history—a theme that the Islamic tradition shares with other cultural and religious traditions that emerged within the Near East. The proposed study focuses on the theological and exegetical controversies surrounding the idea of the covenant in roughly the 9th through 12th centuries. 

I am also currently writing an ethnographic study that focuses on death, which is a universal, fundamental, and complex human concern. My aim is to document how Muslim immigrant communities in New York City understand themes surrounding death. I am interested in exploring beliefs concerning several issues: salvation/soteriology, the symbolic meanings of funerary rites such as Qurʾānic recitation over the deceased and the ritual cleansing of the deceased, attitudes towards the veneration of the dead and tomb visitation, and relationships between the living and the dead. Further, I am interested in understanding the ways that Muslim communities fused traditional Islamic practices with local and civil customs to form rituals that are distinctive to American Islam; and in understanding how immigrant Muslim populations enact the prescriptions of traditional Islamic ritual law.