Details from Denver: 2018 Annual Meeting Conference Report

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The sixth Annual Meeting of the International Qur’anic Studies Association was held in Denver this year from November 16-19, concurrent with the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature. This year once again provided an opportunity for scholars from across the academic world to come together to exchange new ideas and continue ongoing conversations on the Qur’an, the milieu from which it emerged, and the exegetical discussions which it inspired.

Emran_Gab_RecepThe first panel of the weekend, chaired by Alba Fedeli, focused on the topics of accessibility and interpretation as they relate to Qur’anic manuscripts. The early history of the Qur’an, as indicated by manuscript evidence, was a recurring theme, including the import of the Sana‘a palimpsest, the role of orthography, and interlinguistic connections. Participants also considered the role of digital technology in opening up new paths for manuscript studies and the relevance of these tools for the Qur’an in particular. The day was capped off by a lively general reception for IQSA members.

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Saturday was the first full day of talks, beginning with a panel on linguistic and literary perspectives on the Qur’anic text. The ambit of this discussion ranged from specific words (Shawkat Toorawa on awtād) to broader concepts (Saqib Hussain on ḥikma) to linguistic context (Marijn van Putten on the lack of Syriac borrowing in the Qur’an) to theoretical frameworks (Joseph Lowry on a ‘nomochronic’ assessment of the Qur’an’s normativity). After a luncheon which brought together senior scholars and graduate students, the afternoon featured an important and lively panel discussion on the topic of bias, representation, and the importance of diverse perspectives in Qur’anic studies. The panel highlighted both the work already undertaken to widen the scope of the field and significant improvements that have yet to be made. The day closed with a panel on manuscripts and commentaries, which featured Iskandar Bcheiry’s consideration of the Arabic and Syriac manuscript resources of the St. Lazarus monastery in Venice, along with Hacı Osman Gündüz discussing the concept of ṣarfa in al-Nāshiʾ al-Akbar’s poetry and Sheza Alqera considering the importance of oral context in an understanding of manuscripts.

Eleonore_PalimspsestThe third day of the conference was again full of panels, kicking off with a morning session on ways of contextualizing the Qur’an. Sarah Schwarz and Tommaso Tesei focused on the relevance of a Jewish background, respectively discussing Solomonic power and 4 Ezra 7. David Powers revisited the question of Zayd, Zaynab, and Muhammad, and how to understand the historicity of the traditional story combining those three figures. Finally, Johanne Louise Christiansen presented a summary of Roy Rappaport’s contributions to system theory and considered its relevance to studying the Qur’an. The theme of the Qur’an’s place within the Biblical tradition continued in the afternoon, with talks focusing on Hārūt and Mārūt from a comparative perspective (Rachel Claire Dryden), the polemical understanding of accusations of God’s poverty in Q. 3:181 (Shari L. Lowen), the theme of prophetic protection and Satanic utterances (Holger Zellentin), and the connection of Joseph to the rhetoric of clothing in the Qur’an (Sarra Tlili). The evening session completed the day’s emphasis on placing the Qur’an in a Late Antique world of literary and religious influences. Stephen Burge considered the interreligious rhetoric of fasting, while David Vishanoff discussed the tradition of an Islamic psalter, and Stuart Langley compared Q. 7:179, Isaiah 6:10, and Matthew 13:15.

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Monday, the last day of talks, brought together themes ranging from hermeneutics to genre theory to the Arabian context of the rise of Islam. In the morning set of presentations, Gabriel Said Reynolds offered thoughts on the problem of Qur’anic insertions, followed by Thomas Hoffman reflecting on a materialist understanding of the Qur’an’s iconicity and Johanna Pink considering the evolution of the term ṣabr between medieval and modern exegesis. The afternoon featured IQSA’s annual session on Sūra Studies, which this year was dedicated to the group of sūras known collectively as the Musabbiḥāt (Q. 57, 59, 61, 62, and 64). Both Adam Flowers and Karim Samji focused on genre as a method of understanding this grouping, while Andrew J. O’Connor spoke about the function of prophetic authority within them. Finally, the weekend concluded with another set of talks looking at the Qur’an through the broad lens of Late Antiquity. Four discussants considered a wide-ranging set of topics, including the Greco-Roman image of Arabia (Karen L. Carducci), the topos of Trinitarian deities between Arabian religion and the Qur’an (Emran El-Badawi), the long history of camel sacrifice (Brannon Wheeler), and the attestations of earliest Islam extant in Anastasius of Sinai (Stephen J. Shoemaker).

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This year’s Annual Meeting was one of IQSA’s most outstanding yet, packed with excellent presentations across the board and consistently high attendance. It was exhilarating as always to see the flourishing of new perspectives within the world of Qur’anic scholarship as well as the always impressive level of academic rigor exemplified by all of this year’s speakers. We look forward to moving from the shadow of the Rocky Mountains this year to the sunny shoresof the Pacific for next year’s meeting, and hope to see faces both familiar and new there!

By Conor Dube (Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University)

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.

In Memoriam, Keith Small (1959-2018)

By Daniel A. Brubaker, Ph.D.

smallKeith Edward Small, scholar of Qurʾan manuscripts who made significant contributions to the field of Qurʾan textual criticism, passed away early morning Thursday, December 6, 2018 in Oxford, UK, having been admitted to hospital earlier in the week.

Keith was diagnosed in 2016 with AL Amyloidosis, a rare blood disorder without known cure that causes protein deposits on vital organs. As the disease progressed, mobility and regular activity became more difficult. Dialysis became a regular routine and Keith had been in and out of hospital. He kept up writing activities and correspondence throughout as much as he was able, and his characteristic kind and gentle demeanor remained evident to those around him.

Keith was a friend of IQSA from its beginning, having served as the inaugural unit chair of the Manuscripts and Textual Criticism unit. He felt deeply, along with the other organizers, the need for a public space to foster the critical study of the Qurʾan.

Keith was born July 24, 1959 in Battle Creek, Michigan. He took his BA from Western Michigan University, a Masters of Theology (ThM) at Dallas Theological Seminary, and then his PhD at the Guthrie Centre for Islamic Studies at London School of Theology. On August 10, 1985, Keith and Celeste were married.

Discussions with Muslim friends and a realization that many questions remained unanswered about the Qur’an’s transmission as a physical object formed the impetus for Keith’s advanced scholarly inquiry.

Prior to achieving his doctorate, Keith traveled to meet with scholars who studied the early Sana’a, Topkapı, and Samarkand Qur’an manuscripts. After the reintroduction of the Bergstrasser archives, said to have been destroyed by Spitaler after WWII, Keith was invited by Michael Marx and Angelika Neuwirth to the first Corpus Coranicum conference at the Free University of Berlin in 2005. At this conference, Keith’s paper comparing early variants in textual critical issues, reminiscent of the critical edition of the Qur’an projects initiated Jeffery and Bergstrasser, was appreciated by those present, including Neuwirth and Marx, Gerd-R Puin, Noja Noseda, Andrew Rippin, and Efim Rezvan. Hope was in the room for various reinitiated projects since Bergstrasser’s death in 1938 and Arthur Jeffery’s subsequent lament in 1959 that a truly critical edition of the Qur’an was perhaps now beyond reach of scholars.

Keith authored several books. His Textual Criticism and Qurʾan Manuscripts (Lexington, 2011) was the first of its kind and has become the standard introduction to the subject. Keith’s work was always circumspect; he wished to treat his subject with integrity and honesty. A committed Christian, he strove to be meticulous in his analysis and critical in assessments without overreaching the evidence. This approach earned him not only the admiration and trust of colleagues, but also a position as a Manuscript Consultant to Oxford’s Bodleian Library for their Qurʾan manuscript collection, where he has had an office since 2014. As part of this work, Keith was asked to produce Qur’ans: Books of Divine Encounter (Bodleian Press) to accompany the first exhibition at the newly renovated Weston Library (the Special Collections library of the Bodleian) to showcase the collection. Keith was a visiting lecturer and associate research fellow at the London School of Theology and a guest lecturer at Oxford University, as well as having presented papers at conferences in Britain, the United States, Germany, and France.

Keith was a friend to me. I met him in 2005 and was quickly drawn to interest in Qur’an manuscripts after seeing his work. From the start, he was helpful to me and provided direction, contacts, and resources. He provided my first opportunity to present a conference paper on the topic, at MESA in San Diego on a panel that also included David Powers and was chaired by Emran El-Badawi. It is true to say that I owe my current work in Qur’an manuscripts in significant part to the kind mentoring guidance of this wonderful man, Keith Small.

Throughout this past year, Keith has been working toward completion of a final book project, a book that uses Christianity and Islam to explore the popular assertion that all religions believe the same thing. It is our understanding as of a month or so ago that Keith was on the final chapter of this book; we hope it will be forthcoming soon.

Keith was 59 years old. He is survived by his wife, Celeste, and their three adult children, William, Taylor, and Beverly.

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© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.

2018 IQSA Lifetime/Institutional Members

Dear friends across the globe,

Today is another proud and historic day for the International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA). It is with great honor that I acknowledge two new lifetime members and one new institutional IQSA member as of November 2018.

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IQSA welcomes the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (CMJE) as its inaugural institutional member. CMJE is a tripartite partnership of the Hebrew Union College, the Umar Ibn Al-Khattab Foundation, and the University of Southern California.

IQSA also received two new lifetime members: Dr. Daniel Brubaker and Sharif Randhawa. Daniel Brubaker (pictured on the right) is primarily a scholar of Qur’an manuscripts of the 7th to 10th centuries.He defended his doctoral dissertation titled “Intentional Changes in the Quran Manuscripts” and was awarded his PhD at Rice University in Houston in 2014. Since then he’s continued his work researching corrections in early Qurans and to date Dr. Brubaker has analyzed approximately 10,000 early Quranic manuscripts or manuscript folios in institutions and libraries throughout Europe and the Middle East and elsewhere, Doha, Kuwait, Tashkent. 

Sharif Randhawa (pictured on the left) completed his Bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Washington in 2018 and is currently applying for graduate school. His interests include the composition of the Qurʾan as well as its relationship with Late Antique biblical tradition. He has served as a researcher on these aspects of the Qurʾan for Bayyinah Institute, and is the author, with Nouman Ali Khan, of Divine Speech: Exploring the Qurʾan as Literature. He is also affiliated with the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Qurʾan and its Interpretation (CASQI).

IQSA’s inaugural Lifetime Members are Professor Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Director of National and International Outreach, Library of Congress, and President Emeritus, Bryn Mawr College; as well as Professor Reza Aslan, University of California in Riverside, and contributor at CNN, HBO, ABC and other media outlets. Among her many impressive achievements Professor McAuliffe is the editor of the monumental research reference work known to every student and scholar of the Qur’an today, namely the Encyclopedia of the Qur’an (2001-). Likewise, Professor Aslan is known across the world for his television appearances and best-selling books, including No God but God (2005) and Zealot (2013).

As a reward for their investment, lifetime members enjoy benefits in perpetuity. To accommodate the different levels of our members, IQSA offers five membership tiers starting 2018. We encourage all scholars and students in the field to consider renewing their membership or to become IQSA MEMBERS NOW.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and Standing Committees, I offer a warm welcome to CMJE, Brubaker, Randhawa, and all incoming 2019 IQSA members.

Sincerely,

Emran El-Badawi, Executive Director

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.

Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize 2018-19

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Andrew Rippin was the inaugural president of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (2014). He is remembered as “an esteemed colleague, revered mentor, and scholarly inspiration to many members of the IQSA community.”

In honor of Andrew Rippin, the International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA) will award a prize to the best paper delivered at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Denver, CO by a graduate student or early career scholar (Ph.D. awarded 2013 or later).

The prize winner will receive $250. In addition, the award committee will provide him/her with detailed feedback and guidance enabling him/her to expand the paper into a scholarly article that qualifies for publication in the Journal of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (JIQSA), subject to peer review.

Interested scholars should submit a draft of the paper which they read at the 2018 Annual Meeting at Denver; this draft should be no longer than fifteen double-spaced pages (or 3750 words). Submissions should be sent to contact@iqsaweb.org by January 5, 2019. The prize winner will be announced by February 1, 2019. The winner should then be prepared to submit a fully revised version of the winning article by April 1, 2019. Publication of the final version is contingent upon review by the award committee and editorial staff of JIQSA.

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© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.