Summer School in Oriental Languages: July 5 – 14, Venice, Italy

The third Summer School in Oriental Languages, organized by the University of Lausanne, took place at Venice International University, on the island of San Sèrvolo, from July 4 – 14. This year, 33 participants from more than a dozen universities in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the UK and the USA attended courses on a range of Ancient, Late Antique and Modern Oriental Languages such as Arabic, Coptic, Ge’ez, Hebrew, Syriac and Sumerian. A number of minor courses in Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions, Semitic lexicology and non-alphabetic languages were also offered in addition to the main language courses.

1

Venice International University offers a fanastic location for studying on the Venetian island of San Sèrvolo.

Participants on the summer school were also able to visit the monastery of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, which is based on the island next to San Sèrvolo, and has been home to the Armenian Mekhitarist community since 1717.

2

Amongst its collection of paintings and objects d’art, the monastery’s library houses a number of manuscripts and books, including some Islamic/qur’ānic ones.

3

An 8th century Qur’ān fragment in kufic script. Reproduced courtesy of San Lazzaro degli Armeni.

The summer school represents a rare opportunity to study some of the languages that relate to the broader field of qur’ānic/Islamic studies. Thanks to Professor David Hamidovic (Lausanne), for this initiative and also to the administrative coordinator in Lausanne, Salomé Evard and her team. Applications for next year’s summer school will open in Spring of 2019 and IQSA will endeavour to keep you updated.

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

Summer School in Arabic Codicology, at the Royal Library of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, July 9 – 13, Madrid

The fifth, consecutive, intensive summer school on Arabic Codicology: the Islamic Manuscript Heritage in the El Escorial Collection took place in Madrid, Spain from July 9 – 13. The course was led and directed by Professor Nuria de Castilla (Ecole Pratique d’Hautes Etudes, Paris), and Professor François Déroche (Collège de France, Paris). This year, participants were also able to benefit from the expertise of José Luis del Valle Merino, director of the Royal Library of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. The course was sponsored by the European Commission Research Project Saadian Intellectual and Cultural LifE SICLE 670628 and co-organised by UCM’s Fundación General.

cod1

Professor Nuria de Castilla and some of the participants at the summer school

The aim of the summer school has been to provide the students with basic training in codicology and the research methods they will need when studying and analyzing Arabic manuscripts. Following morning lectures on different aspects of codicology, such as composition, writing surfaces, illumination, paleography and bindings, the afternoons were dedicated to hands-on sessions at the Royal Library, where participants were able to apply the knowledge and skills they had learnt, by examining manuscripts from the Arabic Collection.

The El Escorial Arabic Manuscript Collection (circa 2000 codices) consists mainly of manuscripts from the Library of Sultan Mūlay Zaydān, which became part of the Library of Phillip III of Spain in 1612. The collection is thus one of the very few from the Muslim world to remain virtually intact and is therefore considered to be the most important collection of Arabic manuscripts in Spain and one of the most interesting in Europe.

cod2

A hands-on session in the Library

The course not only furthered participants’ knowledge of the collection, but also promoted the creation of international networks and exchange between participants. With an average of 100 applications each year, but capacity for only 16 participants, to date, the course has welcomed participants from all five continents. This year, the course was attended by participants from Argentina, Austria, France, Germany, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Singapore, Spain, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

 

Anyone interested in the field of codicology can find more information on the summer school’s Facebook page, Twitter profile or website.

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

 

Arabic in Context: Celebrating 400 years of Arabic at Leiden University.

The writing of Arabic’s linguistic history is by definition an interdisciplinary effort, the result of collaboration between historical linguists, epigraphists, dialectologists, and historians. The present volume seeks to catalyse a dialogue between scholars in various fields who are interested in Arabic’s past and to illustrate how much there is to be gained by looking beyond the traditional sources and methods. It contains 15 innovative studies ranging from pre-Islamic epigraphy to the modern spoken dialect, and from comparative Semitics to Middle Arabic. The combination of these perspectives hopes to stand as an important methodological intervention, encouraging a shift in the way Arabic’s linguistic history is written…*

arabic

 

ISBN13: 9789004343030
Publication Date: June 2017
Imprint: BRILL
Language: EnglishArabic
*Content courtesy of Brill Publishers.
© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2018. All rights reserved.

IQSA Job Vacancy: Copy Editor

The International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA), a non-profit organization, seeks a copyeditor for freelance contract work on its three scholarly publication projects: JIQSA (annual journal), ISIQ (monograph series), RQR (monthly review of books). This is a deadline-driven position with overlapping seasonal workflows where diverse specialized texts require detailed technical editing in short turnaround times. Work is remote-desk and may be performed from any geographical location in the United States. This is a great opportunity for someone who enjoys high-performance work and is looking to join a collaborative team of scholars in a dynamic professional field.

Position will report directly to Head Editor of JIQSA, but will also collaborate with other members of IQSA’s editorial and executive teams as appropriate.

Position open until filled.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • check texts to ensure they are well written and logically structured
  • correct grammar and spelling
  • check illustrations and captions
  • ensure texts conform to JIQSA Style Guide
  • check facts and raise queries with Head Editor
  • look out for potential legal problems and discuss them with the Head Editor
  • other duties as assigned

REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Education: B.A. in English, journalism, Near Eastern languages, or other relevant field in the liberal arts, humanities or social sciences
  • excellent written English, including proper spelling and grammar
  • working knowledge of classical Arabic and relevant systems of transliteration
  • a meticulous approach to texts and an eye for detail
  • the ability to maintain high-quality work while meeting tight deadlines
  • strong concentration and ability to focus on texts that may be lengthy and highly technical
  • clear judgement in applying house style
  • the ability to retain authors’ voices after editing
  • excellent collaboration skills

PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS:

  • M.A. or graduate study in relevant field
  • specialist interest in Qur’anic Studies or related disciplines
  • working knowledge of additional foreign languages (esp. Persian, Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, German, or French)

COMPENSATION:

  • Contract may be negotiated as hourly or by project; rate commensurate with qualifications and experience
  • Free access to IQSA member benefits

Interested candidates should submit resume/CV and cover letter to jiqsa@iqsaweb.org.

 

 

Job Vacancy: IQSA Executive Assistant (PT, Remotely)

JOB VACANCY: EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT

The International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA), a nonprofit organization, currently has a part-time job opening for an Executive Assistant which needs to be filled at once. The position requires about 10 hours per week and pay is $15 per hour. He/she will report directly to the Executive Director, but also work over e-mail/phone with colleagues located remotely. The work can be done from any geographic location in the Unites States, with preference given to candidates in Houston or Atlanta. The candidate will preferably be a recent graduate or graduate student in the fields of humanities, liberal arts or social sciences with editorial experience and some knowledge of non-profits. Candidate must show attention to detail, have a can-do attitude and a professional communication style. Foreign language experience is strongly desired.

The required duties are listed below and can all be performed remotely/from home.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Manage the weekly blog
  • Maintain and update WordPress website and membership website
  • Update organization’s social media (Facebook and Twitter pages)
  • Setup conference calls using online system
  • Manage email inquiries sent to organization’s email address
  • Moderate online discussion group daily
  • Manage master contact list
  • Administer and manage membership software
  • Draft and send emails to all the organization’s members and contacts
  • Assist in preparations for organization’s annual and international meetings
  • Edit and format the annual meeting program book using the style guide
  • Contact Publishers and sell advertisement space
  • Coordinate communications between Council, Executive Director, and committees
  • Coordinate and manage payments, reimbursements, and expense sheets
  • Organize and archive documents
  • Other organizational, managerial, and editorial tasks as needed
  • Research best practices to assist in administration’s communication and planning
  • Seek out relevant news, research and conferences in Qur’anic Studies

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Bachelors degree in Humanities, Social Science or related field.
  • Masters degree or graduate study preferred
  • Working knowledge of foreign languages and text (Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Hebrew, French or German) is a major plus!

Interested candidates should send a CV and 1 page cover letter to Dr. Emran El-Badawi (emran01@gmail.com).

Rethinking Late Antiquity—A Review of Garth Fowden, Before and After Muḥammad: The First Millennium Refocused

By Michael Pregill

Beginning in the 1970s, the work of Peter Brown revolutionized the way scholars approach the “fall of Rome,” the decline of Roman and Sasanian power in the Middle East, and the rise of Islam in Late Antiquity. In his classic The World of Late Antiquity, AD 150-750 and other works, Brown argued that the emergence of Islam and the establishment of the caliphal empire was not a radical disruption of the course of history, but rather represented the continuity of older cultural, political, social, and religious patterns. Despite the wide influence of Brown’s work and the general recognition of Islam’s importance in the overall trajectory of Mediterranean and even European history, substantial obstacles to a full integration of ancient, early Christian, Jewish, and Islamic phenomena into a general history of the civilization of Western Asia remain.

Although an outdated, isolationist approach to Late Antiquity primarily focusing on late Roman culture and society still dominates some quarters of the academy, many scholars have worked towards a more integrated and comparative approach to the period. The shifts have been gradual and partial. Today there are numerous scholars of rabbinics who explore the wider context of the Babylonian Talmud in Sasanian society; there has lately been a resurgence of interest in the history of the Red Sea region, including Ethiopia and the Yemen, in the centuries leading up to the rise of Islam; and over the last ten years or so, we have seen significant interest in the literary and religious parallels to the Qur’an found in Syriac Christian literature in particular. (Many of the scholars who have been responsible for the last development have generously assisted in the foundation and growth of IQSA, so this is really nothing new to readers of this blog, though developments in late ancient or Jewish historiography may be less familiar.)

Before and After Muhammad: The First Millennium Refocused

Before and After Muhammad: The First Millennium Refocused

All of these developments point to a recognition that the various cultures and literatures of Late Antiquity cannot be viewed in isolation, but rather must be approached in the wider context of the dynamic exchanges between various communities in the period, the imperial competition between the Romans and the Sasanians, and the spread and consolidation of the monotheistic or “Abrahamic” traditions.

Among the scholars who sought to adopt, refine, and develop Brown’s approach to the period, it was Garth Fowden—currently Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths at Cambridge—who produced what was perhaps the most important work in this area in the 1990s: From Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity. When I was a graduate student, Fowden’s work impacted me profoundly. The book is ambitious in scope, wildly imaginative, willing to explore the period in terrifyingly broad terms, but in pursuit of a single cogent thesis: that the entire history of the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean from the second through the ninth century CE can be understood in terms of a sequence of imperial projects aiming to establish God’s rule on earth. That is, the unifying theme of the era, one that distinguishes it from the civilization of the ancient world and sets the stage for the medieval cultures of Byzantium, Western Christendom, and the Dār al-Islām, is the use of monotheism as the primary justification for statebuilding, for literally global dominion (as far as that was possible in the pre-modern world). In Fowden’s work, the use of religion to justify imperial authority becomes the thread that links Christian Rome, Sasanian Iran, and the caliphates and that allows us to see the significant continuities between them with clarity.

(Perhaps not coincidentally, the only other books I read during my Ph.D. training that exerted a similarly enduring influence on my imagination were Wansbrough’s The Sectarian Milieu (1978)—no doubt familiar to every reader of this blog—and Bulliet’s The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization (2004), which, like Fowden’s Empire to Commonwealth, is another eloquent call for historical thinking on the global scale, for transcending the narrow and artificial boundaries between the culture of “the West” and Islam.)

After a number of years dedicated to other projects, including a fascinating study on the iconography of the late Umayyad palace of Quṣayr ʿAmra, Fowden has now returned to history on the grand scale with Before and After Muḥammad: The First Millennium Refocused. Stunningly, this work is even more ambitious in scope than Empire to Commonwealth. Here Fowden once again seeks to explore the overarching continuities between Christian Rome, Sasanian Iran, and Islam but with even more attention paid to the intertwining discourses that link Greco-Roman, Syrian Christian, Jewish, Arab, Iranian, and European cultures over the course of a thousand years, centering on what he now calls the “Eurasian hinge” of southwest Asia linking the civilizations of the region. Fowden anchors his work in a rigorous interrogation of older conceptions of Late Antiquity, criticizing older scholars’ poor integration of Islam into the period, as well as the common approach of only including the Umayyad caliphate as a late antique empire. This serves to truncate the early medieval period from older trajectories of development that arguably only reached their full fruition around the year 1000. It also artificially severs the Abbasids and Iranian Islam from the prevailing cultural patterns of the Arab-Islamic world, though they are equally rooted in the legacies of biblical monotheism and Hellenism.

(teachmiddleeast.lib.uchicago.edu)

(teachmiddleeast.lib.uchicago.edu)

Fowden also locates his work in the context of contemporary debates over the relationship between Islam and the West, stating quite bluntly that “My purpose here is not to join this debate directly, but to overhaul its foundations” (2). His approach in Before and After Muḥammad builds on his earlier work, in that the cultures of the Islamic Middle East and Christian Europe are seen as halves of a larger whole. (Here I was a bit disappointed that Fowden does not engage with Bulliet’s aforementioned work The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization, which eloquently argues for an approach to Islam and the West as two halves or wings of a unified civilizational complex that only decisively split in the later medieval period. This is a perspective that is obviously quite compatible with and complementary to Fowden’s.)

Periodization, methods, and labels occupy much of Fowden’s attention here, and he spends significant time critiquing other contemporary attempts to advance beyond traditional frameworks and paradigms (82-91), adopting the new periodization of a unified “First Millennium” as his preferred heuristic lens on the period. This approach has the distinct benefit of locating Augustus at one end of the period and the emergence of the mature scriptural communities of Europe and Western Asia at the other, without privileging Europe over the Islamic world as the “true” heir to Greco-Roman antiquity or reifying anachronistic communalist boundaries between “pagans,” Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Several aspects of Fowden’s approach here depart from that of From Empire to Commonwealth. There is a particular emphasis here on various textual lineages as the foundation of cross-cultural continuity. Thus, he sees the transmission of specific canons of material as one of the primary drivers of cultural development, each moving through an initial phase of revelation to subsequent phases marked by canonization and then interpretation, with the resultant exegetical cultures dominating the cultural landscape from western Europe to eastern Iran by the year 1000. As a student of comparative exegesis (in my case, midrash and tafsir) I found the emphasis on the exegetical here particularly fascinating, though notably, Fowden is not concerned solely with scriptural canons (Tanakh, Bible, and Qur’an) but also philosophical and legal canons, placing particular emphasis on Aristotelianism as a major current of cultural continuity in the First Millennium.

Fowden’s two chapters on “Exegetical Cultures” are thus exhilarating and dizzying—charting Aristotelianism’s movement from Greek to Syriac to Arabic educational institutions, the evolution of law from the Justinianic Code to the Babylonian Talmud to the emergence of Islamic fiqh, and touching on patristic, Karaite, and Muʿtazilite scriptural exegesis for good measure. The final chapter is likewise a tour de force, surveying the culmination of the First Millennium by showing us “Viewpoints Around 1000: Ṭūs, Baṣra, Baghdād, Pisa.” The cities visited in this grand perspective symbolize, respectively, the resurgence of Iranian national consciousness with the Shāh-Nāmeh of Firdowsī; the maturation of gnostic-philosophical-spiritual currents in early medieval Islam with the Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ; the emergence not just of the mature Sunni and Shii traditions but of sophisticated and distinctively Islamic modes of apprehending and engaging different faiths; and the reemergence of Europe as a meaningful center of cultural production.

Astonishingly, this work is not the culmination of Fowden’s work in rethinking Late Antiquity. Rather, he advertises this book as a prolegomenon to a new, more comprehensive project on the First Millennium. It is also the companion piece to a forthcoming work charting the evolution of philosophy from Aristotle to Avicenna. Specialists will inevitably find much to quibble with here, especially given Fowden’s propensity to working in broad swathes rather than drilling down to wrestle with thorny details. Moreover, one can imagine assigning this only to the most intrepid undergraduates, despite the major pedagogical implications of Fowden’s reflections on periodization in particular. But overall, this is synthetic historiographic work of great sophistication and lasting value, and Before and After Muḥammad deserves to provoke discussion throughout many scholarly quarters.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2014. All rights reserved

New Book: The Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions

A new book by Emran El-Badawi on The Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions has been published this month. This book is the thirteenth of the Routledge Studies in the Qur’an series, edited by Andrew Rippin.

(Routledge.com)

(Routledge.com)

Description*

This book is a study of related passages found in the Arabic Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospels, i.e. the Gospels preserved in the Syriac and Christian Palestinian Aramaic dialects. It builds upon the work of traditional Muslim scholars, including al-Biqa‘i (d. ca. 808/1460) and al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505), who wrote books examining connections between the Qur’an on the one hand, and Biblical passages and Aramaic terminology on the other, as well as modern western scholars, including Sidney Griffith who argue that pre-Islamic Arabs accessed the Bible in Aramaic.

The Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions examines the history of religious movements in the Middle East from 180-632 CE, explaining Islam as a response to the disunity of the Aramaic speaking churches. It then compares the Arabic text of the Qur’an and the Aramaic text of the Gospels under four main themes: the prophets; the clergy; the divine; and the apocalypse. Among the findings of this book are that the articulator as well as audience of the Qur’an were monotheistic in origin, probably bilingual, culturally sophisticated and accustomed to the theological debates that raged between the Aramaic speaking churches.

Arguing that the Qur’an’s teachings and ethics echo Jewish-Christian conservatism, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of Religion, History, and Literature.

Table of Contents

  1. Sources and Method
  2. Prophetic Tradition in the Late Antique Near East
  3. Prophets and their Righteous Entourage
  4. The Evils of the Clergy
  5. The Divine Realm
  6. Divine Judgement and the Apocalypse
  7. Data Analysis and Conclusion

Author Bio

Emran El-Badawi is Director and Assistant Professor of Arab Studies at the University of Houston. His articles include “From ‘clergy’ to ‘celibacy’: The development of rahbaniyyah between Qur’an, Hadith and Church Canon” and “A humanistic reception of the Qur’an.” His work has been featured on the New York Times, Houston Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor.

Subjects

  1. Islam
  2. Scriptures of Islam
  3. Biblical Studies

For complete product information on El-Badawi’s book please go here.

* Accessed from the publisher’s product page.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2013. All rights reserved.