Review of Qur’anic Research, Vol. 4 no. 3 (2018)

In the latest installment of the Review of Qur’anic Research (Vol. 4, no.3), John Kaltner (Rhodes College) reviews George Bristow’s Sharing Abraham? Narrative Worldview, Biblical and Qur’anic Interpretation & Comparative Theology in Turkey (Cambridge, MA: Doorlight Academic, 2017).
In his review, Kaltner writes… “Bristow aims to present an alternative model of how Christian-Muslim dialogue can be undertaken by replacing the common thematic approach with one that has Abraham’s role as a figure who points toward Jesus. He writes, “This wholesale jettisoning of the uniqueness, universality and finality of Jesus as Lord and Messiah is found in many Christian efforts to widen the Abrahamic umbrella” (14). This is one of a number of places in the book where Bristow’s evangelical perspective informs and influences his analysis, resulting in a flattening and reduction of the diverse range of views that exist under the Christian portion of that umbrella…”

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

Workshop: Linked Data and Syriac Sources, Amsterdam, March 2018

Around 30 scholars from more than a dozen different countries met in Amsterdam in mid-March for two days of discussions and presentations on developments in digital humanities in Syriac language and literature.


George Kiraz of the Beth Mardutho Institute presents an update on the SEDRA project.

Participants were welcomed to the workshop and Amsterdam by Professor Joke van Saane, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Theology at VU Amsterdam and Professor Wido van Peursen, the workshop organizer and host.

Following an overview of digital Syriac projects in the Netherlands (CALAP, Turgama, Polemics Visualized, Topic Visualizer for Syriac texts, LinkSyr: Linking Syriac Data (CLARIAH), Linked Data and Syriac Sources, Electronic Peshitta Text, e-CSCO), Professor van Peursen explained the methodology behind the projects, which aim to produce more reliable versions of Syriac texts than are currently available.

Hannes Vlaardingerbroek (Leiden/Amsterdam), presented an overview of the LinkSyr project, which is using data in the form of tagged and untagged morphological terms from existing projects and materials and collating them into one dataset, with 160,000 items already tagged of what will eventually comprise more than 1 million terms. However, there is not enough data to train reliable HMM language models: existing tagging methods for Semitic languages, such as Hebrew and Arabic, use large corpora to train language models, which are not currently available for Syriac. Syromorph (BYU) claims high accuracy but is not yet compatible with the LinkSyr data. Mathias Coeckelbergs (Brussels and Leuven), discussed the nature of the data in more detail and longer-term plans, such as linking terms to the database, providing automatic reading tools for non-Syriac specialists and more efficient search facilities. The data has some limits, as it works by recognizing surface forms, which can have multiple translations. Eventually, it is hoped the classification of URIs will be more data-driven and searchable for specific collections of texts.

Following this, George Kiraz (Beth Mardutho) described the process for converting Syriac lexicons from image to text files, creating an on-line, searchable dictionary, as part of the SEDRA project. While SEDRA was designed specifically for Syriac, the project has the technical capability to be expanded to include other Semitic languages and is looking for funding to achieve this longer-term aim.

David A. Michelson (Vanderbilt) provided an update on the project, which has minted URIs for places, persons, primary source texts and citations (bibliographic items), and published them online. URIs relating to factoids (events), ontology (keyword classification) and manuscripts are available as raw data. The project is currently looking for someone to do the same for artifacts. Daniel L. Schwartz (Texas A&M) talked participants through the various features the sitee offers.

Jamie Walters (Oxford-BYU Syriac Corpus) talked participants through the structure and functions of the Oxford-BYU website and the new edition of Hugoye, to be launched this summer.


Jamie Walters showcases the Oxford-BYU Syriac Corpus

Daniel Stökl ben Ezra (EPEH Paris), demonstrated the interface and search functions offered by the ThALES lectionary database, which includes material in Syriac and Arabic.

In the afternoon a number of breakout sessions discussed lexicography, named entities, liturgy, text corpus creation, scholars’ needs and interests, how to bridge Syriac linked data and the Syriac community and linking to other traditions such as Arabic and Ethiopic and brainstormed recommendations and suggestions for future projects.

The workshop provided a rare opportunity for face-to-face discussion and exchange amongst scholars working with Syriac in a variety of fields and it is to be hoped that the connections that were made at the workshop continue to develop to the benefit of current and future projects.

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

Call for Papers Deadline TOMORROW

The deadline to submit paper proposals for IQSA’s 2018 Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado from November 16-19, 2018 is TOMORROW, March 7 at 11:59pm EST.


Paper proposals should be submitted through the SBL’s automated online submission system under the corresponding “Affiliates” link by midnight March 7, 2018 (note: SBL membership is NOT required for proposal submission). Submission links can be found below under the respective program units. Please contact the chairs specified by each program unit to which you’d like to apply if you require further information or experience difficulties with the submission process. Abstracts should be written in English, have a length of around 400 words, and include the name and affiliation of the author.

The Annual Meeting includes panels for each of IQSA’s six program units:

Paper proposals should be submitted through the SBL’s automated online submission system under the corresponding “Affiliates” link. Submission links can be found below under the respective program units. The paper proposal submissions are due by March 7, 2018. For additional information about a specific program unit, you may contact the unit chairs listed on the website via email. If you experience difficulties or have questions about the SBL submission form, please email Abstracts should be written in English, have a length of around 400 words, and include the name and affiliation of the author. IQSA welcomes all submissions and looks forward to an exciting program in Denver.


Linguistic, Literary, and Thematic Perspectives on the Qur’anic Corpus 

Program Unit Chairs:
Anne-Sylvie Boisliveau
Sarra Tlili

The Linguistic, Literary, and Thematic Perspectives on the Qur’anic Corpus unit invites proposals for papers that engage with the Qur’an at the thematic (as opposed to the stylistic or the structural) level. Proposers may for example address themes such as Qur’anic prophetology, eschatology, cosmology, ecology, and social status, or may investigate the meaning of certain Qur’anic words.


The Qur’an: Surah Studies

Program Unit Chairs:
Shawkat Toorawa
Marianna Klar

The Surah Studies unit invites proposals for individual papers on any aspect of the five surahs known collectively as al-Musabbihat (Q 57, 59, 61, 62, and 64). Although traditionally considered to be a group, there is a dearth of secondary scholarship on their form, their structural parallels, their implied unity, or indeed their many differences. Barely mentioned in Neuwirth 2010, these five surahs are excluded from analysis altogether in Cuypers 2016, and garner only a small handful of references in Sinai 2017; and yet Paret (in his 1977 Konkordanz) includes a long list of internal parallels and correspondences for these surahs, hitherto uninterpreted, while Bazargan, intriguingly, considers only surahs 57, 61, and 64 of the Musabbihat to be diachronically coherent wholes (Sadeghi 2011).

A varied blend of a number of qur’anic genres, encompassing sections of hymnic praise, punishment stories, assertions of the resurrection and the truth of God’s message, eschatology, commandment passages, both inter- and intra-community polemics, and references to contemporary events and community practice, the striking similarity of their opening verses nonetheless commands attention. Proposers might also wish to explore the relationship of rhyme to structure, or assess further evidence of the presence of textual borders throughout any or all of the Musabbihat. Presenters might focus on the surahs’ use of rhetorical devices, the presence of Leitwörter, the placement of hapax legomena, the use of repetitive lexical patterns, or recurring images. The surahs’ distinctive theological concepts–God’s Light, for instance, His Balance, or the matter of Divine doubling–might be deemed worthy of individual attention. In sum, proposals are invited on any aspect of the Musabbihat, their reception, their structure, their relative surah-ness, their relationship to other surahs, their composition, their lexicon, their rhetorical features, or their style.



Qur’anic Studies: Methodology and Hermeneutics 

Program unit chairs:
Karen Bauer

This unit aims to understand and contextualise the methods and hermeneutics applied to the Qur’anic text, both historical and contemporary. The Methodology and Hermeneutics unit addresses questions that might implicitly govern other units, such as: What is Qur’anic Studies, and how does the study of the Qur’an differ from the study of its interpretation? What are the methodological differences between descriptive and normative approaches to the text? How does context (intellectual, social, ethical, historical) affect hermeneutical approaches to the text? The unit welcomes papers addressed to the hermeneutics and methods of particular schools of interpretation or thought, and also on hermeneutics as applied to specific subjects or concepts such as social justice and gender. 

This year the Methodology and Hermeneutics unit invites papers from any aspect of the methods and hermeneutics in the study of the Qur’an. We will also be convening a pre-arranged roundtable discussion on bias and identity politics in the field of Qur’anic Studies.


The Qur’an: Manuscripts and Textual Criticism 

Program unit chairs:
Alba Fedeli
Shady Hekmat Nasser

The aim of this unit, originally founded and curated by Keith Small, is to provide a cross-disciplinary setting to address the variety of interconnected issues that arise when questions concerning the Qur’an’s text are explored in relation to its manuscript tradition. Manuscript tradition refers to the transmission of the Qur’anic text in Qur’anic manuscripts, marginal notes to the text, and citations of the Qur’anic text as found in other works of Islamic literature, such as commentaries and particularly the qira’at literature. This will provide a forum to explore the relationship between Qur’anic manuscripts and Qur’anic citations, focusing on textual variants and the historical context of the Qur’an in various historical periods. In addition to the analysis of textual data, the unit also examines other topics, such as palaeographic, codicological, and art-historical features in the study of the Qur’an’s manuscript tradition, the application of textual criticism to manuscript texts, as well as the phenomenon of textual variants as found in the Islamic qira’at literature. It is hoped that bringing together scholars from the subdisciplines of Qur’an manuscript studies, Qur’anic commentaries and qira’at studies will serve to enrich and strengthen these fields.

This year the programming unit will schedule a thematic session entitled “Reading and Accessing Manuscripts of the Qur’an and of Qur’anic Commentaries”. We invite papers that deal with all eras and regions of the manuscript tradition encompassing manuscripts of the Qur’an, Qur’anic commentaries, and qira’at works, as well as the variety of palaeographic, art historical, codicological, philological, historical, and text-critical issues that one encounters in this discipline in terms of access to collections and new technologies for manuscript study. For example, papers may focus on presenting a particular manuscript or collection of manuscripts, on introducing future and past projects for accessing, digitising and displaying collections or on describing new technologies for reading or analysing manuscript texts and exploring issues of textual criticism. Papers on any topic within the range of the interests of The Qur’an: Manuscripts and Textual Criticism programme unit are welcome. Proposals should include a title and an abstract of approximately 400 words.



The Qur’an and the Biblical Tradition

Program unit chairs:
Holger Zellentin
Cornelia Horn

For the 2018 meeting in Denver, we invite papers on exegetical, narrative, legal, or any other interaction between the Biblical and Qur’anic traditions for an open session.

The Qur’an and Late Antiquity

Program unit chairs:
Michael Pregill

For the 2018 IQSA Annual Meeting, the Qur’an and Late Antiquity program unit invites proposals for two open panels. We seek papers that utilize various types of evidence, whether literary, documentary and epigraphic, or material/visual/archaeological, to illuminate the historical context in which the Qur’an was revealed and the early Islamic polity emerged. We are especially interested in papers that utilize comparative methodologies to contribute to a better understanding of the Qur’an’s place in its cultural, political, social, and religious environment.



IQSA welcomes all submissions and looks forward to an exciting program in Denver!

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

Reading is Believing? Sacred Texts in a Scientific Age (26-28 March 2018)


Mon, 26 Mar 2018, 16:00 – Wed, 28 Mar 2018, 14:00 BST


Clare College, University of Cambridge
Trinity Lane
Cambridge CB2 1TL
United Kingdom

Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 12.41.11 PM

How have the scriptural traditions of Islam and Christianity been interpreted in the modern age? In particular, what challenges have been posed to the Bible and Qur’an by developments in science and technology? These are the core questions of this multi-disciplinary academic colloquium, which will be held at Clare College, Cambridge on 26-28 March 2018. Further details, including the Call for Papers, are available at

Registration and payment for the event can be made by following the instructions on this site. A student discount is available for attendees who are studying either full or part-time at a registered higher education institution. Proof of student status will be required at registration. All other attendees should select full-rate options on the payment page.

The event is facilitated by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in collaboration with the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge. Any questions about the colloquium should be directed to Dr Caroline Tee at

Registrations will close at midnight on Wednesday 14th March.


*Content courtesy of Dr. Caroline Tee (St. Edmund’s College) and 


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

Johanne Christiansen wins Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize 2018

The International Qurʾanic Studies Association is delighted to announce that the second annual Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize (open to papers delivered by junior scholars at the 2017 annual meeting) has been awarded to Johanne Christiansen of Aarhus University for her paper “‘And Their Prayer at the House is Nothing but a Whistling and a Clapping of Hands’ (Q 8:35): Negotiating Processions in the Qur’an.” The winner of the Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize receives a cash award. In addition, an expanded and edited version of the winning paper qualifies for publication in the Journal of the International Qur’anic Studies Association.

This award is given in honor of Prof. Andrew Rippin (1950-2016), a leading scholar of the Qurʾān and inaugural president of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (2014). Prof. Rippin is remembered as “an esteemed colleague, revered mentor, and scholarly inspiration to many members of the IQSA community.” An announcement regarding submissions for the second annual Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize will follow the 2018 IQSA annual meeting in Boston.


An abstract of Johanne Christiansen’s award winning paper follows:

The qur’anic text (re)introduces various ritual practices, including those around the Ka’bah. However, the qur’anic descriptions of these rituals are often general, leaving the development of the Islamic ritual complex to later traditions. The qur’anic rituals also vary in detail. Where (e.g.) the fast in Ramadan (Q 2:183-87) is outlined in some detail, the ritual prayer (Q 17:78-79) or almsgiving (Q 31:1-4) are only indicated. Thus, the question remains: why does the Qur’an contain so little information about the central Islamic rituals? There are two answers to this question. 1) Because the rituals were already known to the qur’anic milieu and did not need any further clarification. They go, so to speak, without saying.  2) Because certain aspects of the rituals worried or even generated some ideological uneasiness in the qur’anic community. See (e.g.) Q 2:158: “So whosoever makes hajj to the House, or performs the ‘umrah, it is no fault in him to circumambulate them.” In this regard, the qur’anic strategy seemed to be to not say too much. In this paper, I will argue that both answers are relevant regarding how the Qur’an negotiates the practice of circumambulation. The circumambulation (tawaf) can be defined as a type of demonstrative and participative procession (Lang 2015). It is mentioned several times in the Qur’an, but only once in a polemic distancing from an earlier practice: “And their prayer at the House is nothing but a whistling and a clapping of hands” (Q 8:35). Is this one polemic note an example of “saying too much”? Does the Qur’an here indicate what its community really thought of the pre-Islamic practices around the Ka’bah? The Qur’an is in other contexts explicit when taking a polemical stance against (e.g.) the Jews and Christians (Q 5:12-13). Is it possible that when it comes to ritual practices, the qur’anic strategy was not to utter its criticism too loudly and by that, attract as many adherents as possible? According to Robert Bellah, processional practices are in particular bound to religious orientations before Late Antiquity (Bellah & Joas 2012). However, to walk in a procession seems also to be a basic human need. In this paper, I will demonstrate that the Qur’an, as a late antique text, had to negotiate a solution between an ideal of anti-procession and the feasibility and long-term durability of its ritual practices. A circumambulation with particular gravitas and without clapping and whistling is the pragmatic result of such a negotiation (cf. Halevi 2007). Here, the most important thing, according to the Qur’an, is to pray and address one’s action to God, but if circumambulation is needed, then that can also be accepted (cf. Maghen 2005).


christiansenJohanne Louise Christiansen (Ph.D. 2016, Aarhus University) is currently a Postdoctoral fellow at the Danish research project Ambiguity and Precision in the Qurʾan, which is funded by the Danish Independent Research Fund. The project is based at the Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen and lead by Professor Thomas Hoffmann. Christiansen’s dissertation was entitled “‘My Lord, Deliver Me from the People of the Evildoers (rabbi najjinī mina l-qawmi l-ẓālimīna)’ (Q 28:21): The Root ẓ-l-m and the Semantic Field of Oppression in the Qur’ān.” She is also the author of the article “The Dark Koran: A Semantic Analysis of the Koranic Darknesses (ẓulumāt) and their Metaphorical Usage,” in Arabica 62 (2015): 185-233.


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


Review of Qur’anic Research, Vol. 4 no.2 (2018)

In the latest installment of the Review of Qur’anic Research (Vol. 4 no.2), Adis Duderija (Griffith University) reviews Koran erklӓrt edited by Willi Steuhl (Berlin: Suhrkapm Verlag, 2017).

In his review, Duderija writes…”As a scholar from a Muslim background and someone with an activist mindset, I, for better or worse, over the last decade or so, have actively contributed to the dissemination of academic knowledge in non-academic contexts. I am a firm believer that (Western) academics specialising in Islamic Studies, regardless of their backgrounds, are ethically obliged to contribute to the current debates on Islam and Muslims, especially but not only in their native socio-political contexts, so as to help increase the level of informed opinion among the lay audiences. As such, I particularly welcome the timely publication of Koran erklӓrt, edited by Willi Steuhl, which goes some way in achieving this objective, especially in the German speaking world…”


Want to read more? For full access to the Review of Qur’anic Research (RQR), members can log in HERE. Not an IQSA member? Join today to enjoy RQR and additional member benefits!


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

IQSA Job Vacancies: Blog Coordinator & Grant Writer

The International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA), a non-profit organization, seeks both a Blog Coordinator and Grant Writer to start part-time work (2-3hrs/week) as members of the Executive Office ASAP. Work is remote-desk and may be performed from any geographical location. This is a great opportunity for those who enjoy high-performance work and are looking to join a collaborative team of scholars in a dynamic professional field.

Please find detailed job descriptions and application instructions below:

Job Vacancy: IQSA Blog Coordinator

Job Description: The IQSA Blog Coordinator serves as a member of the Executive Office reporting directly to the Executive Director. This position entails the solicitation and composition of weekly blog posts as well as the evaluation of guest submissions for publication on IQSA’s communication channels. The Blog Coordinator works closely with the Executive Director and Assistant to maintain a schedule of weekly content relevant to IQSA and its mission.

Qualifications: The required duties can be performed remotely/from home so long as candidates have reliable access to online communication channels. Knowledge of Middle Eastern and European languages is strongly desired. The candidate must show attention to detail and a professional communication style and work ethic. The candidate must demonstrate the ability to foster positive relationships with contributors, kin-organizations, publishers, and others as needed. The candidate should also have a background in Qur’anic Studies, Late Antiquity, Islamic Studies or related field (preferably graduate level or higher) and familiarity with best practices in online publishing and content management.

Compensation: This position is Volunteer/Service based. The successful candidate will receive (1) complementary IQSA membership, including but not limited to access to publications, the membership directory, professional development opportunities, and (2) conference support as available.

Interested candidates should send a (1)CV and (2)250 word Cover Letter to Dr. Emran El-Badawi ( Please email with questions about the positions or application process.


Job Vacancy: IQSA Grant Writer

Job Description: The IQSA Grant Writer works as a member of the Executive Office reporting directly to the Executive Director.The Grant Writer assists the Executive Director to prepare, submit, and manage proposals toward private and public associations for funding and support of the organizations. The Grant Writer is responsible for maintaining current and archival records of proposals and assist with other fundraising projects upon request.

Qualifications: The candidate should have a working knowledge of fundraising techniques and strategies for 501(c) nonprofit organizations. The candidate must demonstrate effective written communication skills including structured, persuasive proposals and boilerplate language associated with grant composition. A background in the Humanities or Social Sciences is strongly desired. The candidate should have strong editing skills, attention to detail, the ability to meet deadlines, and familiarity with basic fundraising techniques and strategies. The candidate should also show enthusiasm for IQSA’s mission and work as a scholarly guild.

Compensation: This position is Volunteer/Service based. The successful candidate will receive (1) complementary IQSA membership, including but not limited to access to publications, the membership directory, professional development opportunities, and (2) conference support as available.

Interested candidates should send a (1)CV, (2)250 word Cover Letter, and (3)Writing Sample to Dr. Emran El-Badawi ( Please email with questions about the positions or application process.

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