Not long ago I posted a short snippit about how I'd found a bookseller in the US who stocked Muhammad 'Abduh (and Rashid Rida's) Tafsir al-Manar. I had joked to my husband that my gift to humanity would be translating the twelve-volume tafsir into English, which of course would take me the rest of my life. Cost and postage looked prohibitively expensive so I forgot about it.
For those who don't know, Muhammad 'Abduh was one of the most influential modernist reformers ever, and Rashid Rida was his student who carried on his work. Muhammad Asad's translation of the Qur'an carries material from the 'Abduh tafsir in its commentaries, but there isn't an English translation available. (Sort of the case with so many of the gems that lie hidden in the Arabic world).
When I first wanted to learn Arabic as part of my University course, I had to get permission. I remember sitting in the office of the head of Arabic & Islamic studies while Dr. Saeed typed up a letter of permission. Back then he only had a pokey little office but its walls were crammed with books. I looked lovingly around at all the beautiful sets of commentaries with gorgeous spine decorations thinking, "one day I'll have a set like that on my bookshelf". They sort of symbolised my burning desire to dive into the Arabic and Islamic oceans of knowledge of which I was only beginning to become aware.
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