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  • Reading the Qur’an

Reading the Qur’an

Dr Alicia Lie

English , 2022/04 Proverse Hong Kong

Tags: Islam, Critical reading, Qur’an, Mohammed, Liberalism, Feminism, human equality, peace, progress, individual responsibility, spirituality

210 x 145 x 28 mm , 442pp ISBN / ISSN : 978-988-8492-39-8

  • US$30.00

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Is Islam necessarily against women’s rights? Is Islam at odds with liberal ideals? Dr Alicia Lie argues that neither is true, through a carefully argued textual discussion of the Qur’an.

The aim of Reading the Qur’an is to rethink Islam and to fight extremism. Dr Lie argues against literal interpretations of the Qur’an and puts forward a methodology for the interpretation of this key religious text.

The gist of Dr Lie’s argument is that many of the Muslims who follow doctrines derived from the Qur’an and the Hadiths have not given enough consideration to the issues involved in interpreting these texts. She gives textual evidence that Qur’anic passages were not intended to be perfect guidance suitable for all places and all times, and argues for the importance of independent thinking in following Islam. 

In her Introduction [Chapter 1] she explains the motivations for writing the book.

In Chapter 2 she argues that Islam needs reformation, that we urgently need to fight against regressive trends. 

In Chapter 3 she sets out her principles for a different reading of the Qur’an. She puts forward a methodology for interpreting the Qur’an, consisting of five principles, namely uncertainty, non-literality, contextuality, individuality, and rationality. She argues that there are many uncertainties surrounding the exact meaning of many passages in the Qur’an and the Hadiths (records of prophet Muhammad’s words and actions), so for the avoidance of error people should be given maximum freedom. We should leave it to Allah to judge them at the last judgement. Lie contends that religious texts are often allegorical, because the subjects discussed are frequently beyond the experience of their readers. We cannot take such passages literally in contemporary life. She stresses the historical context of Islamic texts. She argues that one should critically and independently review religious texts, not accepting the views of religious scholars or officials blindly. Lie argues that one should reach a reasonable interpretation of Islam by means of modification and extrapolation, to decide which are key tenets and which are age-specific and non-essential. 

In Chapter 4, Lie reviews passages in the Qur’an that have to do with the main tenets of Islam and reaches liberal interpretations according to the principles she has already given in Chapter 3. She argues that the main criterion for being a Muslim should be moral action rather than a confession of faith.

In Chapter 5, Dr Lie reviews passages in the Qur’an that have to do with women, giving interpretations and unearthing passages compatible with feminism and gender equality. She contextualises the Qur’anic passages about women and argues that we should act in the spirit of improving women’s status rather than follow exact but obsolete practices found in the Qur’an. 

These arguments culminate in a discussion of liberal reform in Chapter 6. Here, Dr Lie argues that we should leave judgment to Allah and take for the guidance of our lives those passages in the Qur’an that are the most spiritually exalted.

In the last chapter, Chapter 7, Lie talks about the concept of philosophical religion. She argues that if we follow the position of the book, then there would be a rebirth of religion, including Islam. 



An important contribution to the modern debate. 

—The Rt Rev. and Rt Hon. The Lord Carey of Clifton

Any fair reader of Lie’s Reading the Qur’an cannot but agree with her that contemporary Muslims do not only need to think of peace with the cultural other – they need to think of their own “peace of mind”, which is, to the writer, the very root of the word “Islam” itself.

—Ahmed Elbeshlawy, independent scholar, author, and poet

DR ALICIA LIE was born in Hong Kong, read philosophy, and now teaches subjects investigating the interaction of cultures and communities. She has studied Arabic for many years and considers Egypt her second home. She is drawn to the spirituality of Islam but repulsed by the way women are treated in many Muslim communities. She hopes that this book of hers can bring about some small changes which may in turn bring about more changes, ad infinitum.

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