Book Chapter or Conference Paper Title

Teaching about Islam: Insights from hermeneutics

Document Type

Book Chapter

Book Title or Conference Proceedings Title

Islamic Religious Education in Europe: A Comparative Study


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi






Leni Franken and Bill Gent.


Routledge Taylor and Francis Group


New York


A widespread and consistent feature of RE is what has been termed an essentialist representation of religion. In the case of Islam, essentialism would mean that the religion has a certain set of characteristics – beliefs, rituals, social relations – which make it what it is and which are to be found in its origins, that is, in its earliest texts. Correspondingly, the task of research, teaching, and learning becomes to uncover the essence and pass it on to the next generation. Recent years have seen a critique of such an approach, amongst other reasons because it does not take account of the role of agency in the making of a religious tradition – believers are supposed to simply accept and follow the fully formed command of the religion. An alternative approach sees religious traditions in hermeneutical terms, whereby meanings are generated and re-generated through fusion of horizons of the tradition, which includes the original texts but much else, and the believers’ historically situated reading of the tradition. Islam, in such an approach, is understood as a dynamic tradition in which believers’ agency is constitutive of the meaning-making.