For Muslims, the loss of productivity and dynamism over the last couple of centuries in the fields of science and technology, as well as other more basic subjects underlying the former, have engendered not only economic decline, loss of international power and prestige, and disruption of social peace and order, but also, perhaps more importantly, problems such as a loss of confidence, a cynical perspective on historical legacy and subsequent profound shocks. The struggle for identity and existence in encounters with the West and relations with the outer world in general have rendered it difficult for Muslims to establish a healthy relationship with Islam and have even had a profound impact on their perception of their religion. As a consequence, we have either experienced isolation and taken refuge in history, or we have distanced ourselves from religion. We have been dragged into the conundrum of where Islam stands. On the one hand religion has been converted into a mere historical subject matter in the fashion of archaic religions and faiths, while on the other it is being wielded as an efficient tool in a multiplicity of ideological and mundane conflicts. In this process, we witness the Qur’an, which is supposed to be the most fundamental source and reference point for the Muslim mind and religious practice, losing its decisive influence on the Muslim understanding of Islam to some extent while responsibilities towards the Qur’an remain confined to formal and superficial ties.
However, it should be taken into consideration that just like the destruction caused in the Islamic world by the Mongol invasions and the Crusades, which engendered an awakening, the experience of the last two centuries has forced the Muslim mind to confront itself and has led to the formation of new understandings and avenues of inquiry in religious thought, and increased efforts among intellectuals to re-read history. An awareness and consciousness of lost values has started to gain strength, and our hopes regarding the possibility of constructing a new future based on the ageless foundations of this religion have started to grow. In this process, Muslims have started reading their Holy Book again and with greater willpower, reorienting themselves towards the Qur’an. Studies focusing on understanding the message of the Qur’an in all ages have proliferated considerably. The perspective that regards perceiving and communicating the universal message of the Qur’an and rendering it a lifestyle as the essential responsibility of Muslims has always existed in the Islamic world. However, this perspective is in a greater need of being vocalized and propagated, given that today Muslims are in a dire need of establishing a more sincere connection with the Qur’an and constructing a common platform of Quranic reflection and thought.
Pessimism aside, there are a good number of reasons to refresh our self-confidence and anticipate the future with hope, despite the formidable problems plaguing the Muslim world today. That is because scholarly production, education, and research aimed at understanding the Qur’an have endured for fourteen hundred years and left a rich legacy, notwithstanding certain watersheds and breaking points in Islamic history. The rich material and the highly self-confident works written and transmitted by Muslim scholars in fields such as the Quranic sciences, the history of the mushaf, ?ad?th, S?ra, and history, particularly in the earlier periods, are lying in wait today for the well-deserved attention and interest of researchers and scholars. On the other hand, these works have caught the attention of Western researchers: studies benefiting from these sources and incorporating comparisons with the West’s own sacred texts have been emphasized, research centers and teams operating in the field of Quranic Studies – albeit under a different set of motivations – have been formed, and various publications have been and are still being produced. A tremendous literature in Quranic Studies, to which contemporary researchers cannot remain indifferent, has emerged in Western languages today. It is time for the Islamic world to abandon the didactic, reactive and defensive stance and become aware of these publications, confront them, develop local projects on an international level, and actualize them accordingly.
Inquiring into the reasons behind the gradual impoverishment of works exploring the semantic world of the Qur’an; analyzing in depth the intellectual, cultural, historical, and modern obstacles standing in the way of understanding the message of the Qur’an correctly; making the Qur’an the foundation on which a new understanding may be established, which addresses the intellectual and spiritual realms of today’s individuals; and rendering the message of the Qur’an a reference point for the people of our age, have remained heavy responsibilities that Muslims have to shoulder. To this end, a quest has been initiated by likeminded individuals who felt this responsibility deeply and desired to build upon existing scholarly studies by meticulous planning, professional execution, and adherence to a scholarly discipline. As a result, “The Center for Quranic Studies and Practice at Istanbul 29 May?s University,” shortly referred to as “Center for Quranic Studies (KURAMER)”, was established in December 2012, whose bylaws and regulations were published in the Official Gazette on 22nd December 2012 (No. 28505).
KURAMER is a pioneering institution in Turkey thanks to its identity as a privately-funded research center affiliated with a university, the examples of which are wide-spread in the West.
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