Review of Qur’anic Research, Vol. 4 no. 10 (2018)

In the latest installment of the Review of Qur’anic Research (Vol. 4, no.10), Roberto Tottoli (Universita degli Studi di Napoli L’Orientale) reviews Pier Mattia Tommasino’s The Venetian Qurʾan: A Renaissance Companion to Islam (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018).

venetian

 

In his review, Roberto Tottoli writes “One of the main problems in contemporary scholarship is the loss of multilingual expertise of the scholars. The centrality of English has simplified the picture, but at the same time has permitted the emergence of students who do not know any other language and of scholars and writers who can propose ideas in English with no awareness of what has been written elsewhere and in other languages. Given such a situation, the English translation of Pier Mattia Tommasino’s study of the Italian edition of the Qurʾān attributed to the publisher Andrea Arrivabene, is a much-welcome effort to give the wider public a chance to know one of the most significant essays in the field of the last years. The original Italian appeared in 2013 and is now offered to the reader in a version updated only in the bibliography, and translated by Sylvia Notini…

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.

Book review: Aims, Methods and Contexts of Qurʾanic Exegesis

By Gabriel Said Reynolds

Aims, Methods and Contexts of Qurʾanic Exegesis (2nd/8th-9th/15th C.), ed. Karen Bauer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

A principal goal of the International Qurʾanic Studies Association (IQSA) is to encourage scholarship on the Qurʾanic text and its relationship to the historical, religious, and literary context of Late Antiquity.  The interest of IQSA in fostering such scholarship is in part a response to the manner in which the academic study of the Qurʾan is often approached through the lens of tafsir.  This approach has not done justice to the text of the Qurʾan.  It also does not do justice to tafsir, a science that deserves to be studied for its own sake and not only as an accessory to the study of the Qurʾan.  In this light the publication of a major volume dedicated to the study of tafsīr, entitled Aims, Methods and Contexts of Qurʾanic Exegesis (2nd/8th-9th/15th C.) and edited by Karen Bauer, is an auspicious development (as will be the forthcoming publication of Tafsir and Intellectual History, edited by Andreas Görke and Johanna Pink).

Aims, Methods and Contexts of Qurʾanic Exegesis, a work based on papers delivered at a 2009 conference at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, opens with a clear and compelling introduction by Bauer and is followed by thirteen chapters of almost universally high quality.  Bauer divides the articles not by chronology but by theme, into three principal sections: “The Aims of Tafsir,” “Methods and Sources of Tafsir,” and “Contextualising Tafsir.”  The work—which includes new editions of Arabic texts in the articles of Walid Saleh and Suleiman Mourad—concludes with a detailed index of Qurʾanic verses, a general index, and a global bibliography.

Here, instead of a comprehensive book review, I would like to draw attention to some highlights in Bauer’s volume. (I’ve also included a complete table of contents below).  Among the most interesting contributions in Aims, Methods and Contexts of Qurʾanic Exegesis are those by Bauer herself, both the Introduction and the second chapter: “Justifying the Genre: A Study of Introductions to Classical Works of Tafsir.”  In the Introduction Bauer convincingly argues that the science of tafsir is as much about the world of the mufassir as it is about the text of the Qurʾan:

At its essence, tafsir is each scholar’s attempt to relate his world to the world of the Qurʾan; it is his attempt to relate his intellectual, political and social contexts to the Qurʾan’s text.  It is a process of meaning-creation, because what the scholars read into the text is not always explicitly there. (p. 8)

In some ways this argument sets the tone for the entire volume, as different scholars show how different mufassirun create meaning, and how their attempts to do so reflect their particular contexts and personalities.  Following Walid Saleh’s detailed study and edition of the introduction to al-Wahidi’s Qurʾan commentary al-Basit, Suleiman Mourad presents an examination of the introduction to the Muʿtazili tafsir of al-Hakim al-Jishumi (“Towards a Reconstruction of the Muʿtazili Tradition of Qurʾanic Exegesis,” ch. 4).  Mourad stresses the way in which al-Jishumi uses his tafsir as an arena (or, to use Mourad’s terminology, a “battlefield”) in which to refute the doctrines of the Muʿtazila’s opponents.

In his article (“Early Shiʿi Hermeneutics: Some Exegetical Techniques Attributed to the Shiʿi Imams”), Robert Gleave explores the way in which certain Shiʿite mufassirun attribute interpretations to the imams.  Gleave categorizes these interpretations according to certain exegetical techniques in order to identify what is distinctive in this particular exegetical genre.  Andrew Rippin (“The Construction of the Arabian Historical Context”) asks how much of what is generally assumed to be the Arabian historical background of the Qurʾan—even its Arabic language—is a construction of the mufassirun.  To this end Rippin comments: “What we have is an interpretational context conveyed in a linguistic, social convention known as ‘Arabic,’ tied to a specifically imagined time and place that ends up being subject to generalisation across the text” (pp. 183-84)

The focus of Martin Nguyen (“Letter by Letter: Tracing the Textual Genealogy of a Sufi Tafsir”) is instead on one particular tafsir, the Laṭaʾif al-isharat of Abu l-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072).  Whereas Qushayri’s work is often labelled as a “mystical” tafsir, Nguyen shows that this label is simplistic, as the Laṭaʾif al-isharat also reflects the particular trends of Qurʾanic interpretation that were present in Qushayri’s context in Nishapur.  While Nguyen’s article presents tafsir as a coherent science with distinct boundaries, Tariq Jaffer’s article (“Fakhr al-Din al-Razi’s System of Inquiry”) highlights the influence of philosophy and theology in Fakhr al-Din al-Razi’s monumental commentary.  He thereby shows that in certain cases the boundaries of tafsir are fluid, and indeed that particular tafsirs can be something like compendia of different sciences.

Perhaps the most impressive contributions to Aims, Methods and Contexts of Qurʾanic Exegesis are the two which make up its final section.  Claude Gilliot (“A Schoolmaster, Storyteller, Exegete and Warrior at Work in Khurasan: al-Dahhak b. Muzahim al-Hilali (d. 106/724)”) provides a detailed and meticulously documented examination of the exegetical material attributed to al-Dahhak, and the varied (and at times ambiguous or conflicting) traditions on his biography.  Michael Pregill (“Methodologies for the Dating of Exegetical Works and Traditions”) examines a text often known (and indeed published) under the title of Tafsir Ibn ʿAbbas.  Pregill shows, with reference to the scholarship of Andrew Rippin and others, that the attribution to Ibn ʿAbbas is without basis, as is Wansbrough’s attribution of this text to al-Kalbi.  Instead, Pregill contends, this work should be identified with a tafsir entitled al-Wadih, compiled by ʿAbdallah b. al-Mubarak al-Dinawari (d. 308/920).  In addition, Pregill convincingly argues through a series of case studies that this text has a distinctive relationship with early works such as Tafsir Muqatil, even if it shares the formal traits of later madrasa style tafsirs.  Thus it is a text that “defies easy categorization” (p. 432).

The same might be said for the work in which Pregill’s article is found.  The articles in Aims, Methods and Contexts of Qurʾanic Exegesis cover a diverse range of subjects, and are of various sorts, from textual editions, to theoretical reflections, to focused studies on particular works.  Together, however, they form an impressive body of scholarship on tafsir.  Indeed this volume might serve as a foundation for the development of a distinctive academic field of tafsir studies.

 Aims, Methods and contexts of Qur’anic exegesis (2nd/8th-9th/15th C)

Table of Contents

Notes on contributors, XI-XIV.

Bauer (Karen), Introduction, 1-16.

Section I; The aims of tafsir
1. Hamza (Feras), Tafsir and unlocking the historical Qur’an: Back to basics?
19-37

2. Bauer (Karen), Justifying the genre: A study of introductions to Classical works of tafsir, 39-65

3. Saleh (Walid A.),The introduction of Wahidi’s al-Basit: An edition, translation and commentary, 67-100

4. Mourad (Suleiman), Towards a reconstruction of the Mu’tazili tradition of Qur’anic exegesis: Reading the introduction of the Tahdhib of al-Hakim al-Jishumi (d. 494/1101)and its application, 101-137.

Section II.Methods and sources of tafsir.
5. Gleave (Robert), Early Shi’i hermeneutics:Some exegetical techniques attributed to the Shi’i Imams, 141-172.

6. Rippin (Andrew), The construction of the Arabian historical context in Muslim interpretation of the Qur’an 173-198

7. Tottoli (Roberto), Methods and contexts in the use of hadiths and traditions in classical tafsir literature: The exegesis of Q. 21:85and Q. 17:1, 199-215

8. Ngyuen (Martin), Letter by letter: Tracing the textual genealogy of a sufi tafsir, 217-240

9. Jaffer (Tariq), Fakhr al-Din al-Razi’s system of inquiry: Doubt and the transmission of knowledge, 241-261

10. Zamah (Ludmila), Master of the obvious: understanding zahir interpretations in Qur’anic exegesis, 263-276.

11. Burge (Stephen), Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, the Mu’awwidhatan and the Modes of Exegesis, 277-310.

Section III. Contextualising tafsir

12. Gilliot (Claude), A schoolmaster, storyteller, exegete and warrior at work in Khurasan: al-Dahhak b. Muzahim al-Hilali (d. 106/724), 311-392.

13. Pregill (Michael E.), Methodologies for the dating of exegetical works and traditions: Can the lost tafsir of al-Kalbi be recovered from Tafsir Ibn Abbas (also known as al-Wadih)?, 393-453

Bibliography, 455-490.

Index of Qur’anic citations, 491-494.

General index, 498-802

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

Workshop report: “New Research on Muhammad and the Qur’an” in Rome

By Giuliano Lancioni

The workshop “New Research on Muhammad and the Qur’an: Exegetical, historical and linguistic approaches,” (September 20-21, 2013), which was jointly organized by Sapienza University of Rome and Roma Tre University, aimed to address a number of issues in recent research on the Qur’anic text in its relation to the figure of the Prophet Muhammad. The full program can be viewed here.

Discussion on the first day of the workshop revolved around Tommaso Tesei’s PhD thesis, Two Legends on Alexander the Great in the Koran: A Study on the Origins of the Arabic Sacred Text and its Links to Late Antique Christian and Jewish Literatures (Sapienza University of Rome/INALCO), directed by Angelo Arioli and Abu Aboubakr Chraïbi.* Friday’s session concluded with the presentation of projects by PhD students at Sapienza University of Rome (Ilaria Cicola, Layla Mustapha, Leila Benassi, Marta Campanelli, and Simona Olivieri).

September 21st was the main day of the conference, held at Roma Tre University. Giuliano Lancioni (Roma Tre University) began the day’s program with a presentation of the Thesaurus Linguae Arabicae project, an ongoing international research project on Arabic corpus linguistics.

Pierre Lory (EPHE-Paris) gave a talk on animals in the Qur’an and in Tradition, in the framework of monotheistic interpretations of animistic visions.

Guillaume Dye (Université Libre de Bruxelles) presented some reflections on Qur’anic Studies in light of Biblical and New Testament Studies, with a particular reference to the reinterpretation of some unclear Qur’anic passages.

In a talk titled From Medina to Baghdad, Emilio González Ferrín (University of Seville) stimulated the audience with a number of reflections on meta-historical issues about the clash between retrospective narrative and historical causality in Early Islam.

Roberto Tottoli (University of Naples “L’Orientale”) devoted his talk to a presentation of his work on Marracci’s translation of the Qur’an and the translator’s own manuscripts and notes, which Tottoli has been analyzing for some time.

Raoul Villano (Sapienza University of Rome) presented his research on the binary structure of the Qur’an in a synchronic, text-internal approach. Villano’s work includes a large body of literature, drawing significantly from the early commentaries through contemporary exegesis.

Tommaso Tesei (Sapienza University of Rome) presented two examples of a critical reading of the Qur’an drawn from his own PhD thesis.

Marco Boella (Sapienza University of Rome) spoke on various concepts and strategies employed in text mining of the Qur’an.

Presentations were followed by lively dialogue, showing the great interest aroused by recent research on the Qur’an and Muhammad and the importance of discussion forums where diverging hypotheses and theories can encounter one another.

*The PhD committee also included Guillaume Dye, Elisabetta Benigni and Roberto Tottoli. Gabriel Said Reynolds, who was scheduled to be member of the committee, could not attend due to administrative issues and thus was replaced by Pierre Lory, who was already in Rome to attend the workshop.

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

Our Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD (Full Schedule and Registration Details)

By Emran El-Badawi and Gabriel Reynolds (With special thanks to Charles Haws)

The International Qur’anic Studies Association is happy to announce the full schedule of its first annual meeting, taking place in Baltimore, MD from November 22-24, 2013. You may recall our earlier announcement informing you about our exciting program for the first day. See the schedule below, but note that room assignments are still pending.

(baltimore.org)

(baltimore.org)

Given that this is IQSA’s inaugural meeting as well as the heightened public interest, the directors and steering committee have decided to make registration for to all IQSA panels on Friday Nov 22 (including the keynote lecture and response) free and open to the public. Those interested are further encouraged to attend IQSA panels on Saturday Nov 23 and Sunday Nov 24 by paying the registration fee of the Society of Biblical Literature – or –  American Academy of Religion. Finally, you are encouraged to subscribe to our blog in order to receive weekly news updates about our meetings, as well as informed posts on Qur’anic Studies today.

On behalf of the co-directors, steering committee and partners we thank you for your enthusiasm and support for IQSA.We look forward to seeing you in Baltimore!

International Qur’anic Studies Association
11/22/2013
1:30 PM to 4 PM
Room: Baltimore Convention Center – 345

Qur’an Manuscripts: Text, Object and Usage

Gabriel Reynolds, University of Notre Dame, Presiding

Keith Small, London School of Theology
Gems of the Bodleian: Qur’an Manuscripts at Oxford University (20 min)

Discussion (10 min)

Simon Rettig, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Codicology versus History of Art? Rethinking the Visual Study of Qur’an Manuscripts (20 min)

Discussion (10 min)

Alasdair Watson, Bodleian Libraries
The King’s Mushafs: A Glimpse at Some of the Qur’ans from Tipu Sultan’s Royal Library (20 min)

Discussion (10 min)

Asma Hilali, Institute of Ismaili Studies
The Manuscript 27.1 DAM: Sacred Words and Words about the Sacred (20 min)

Discussion (10 min)

Break (30 min)

International Qur’anic Studies Association

11/22/2013

4:30 PM to 5:45 PM
Room: Baltimore Convention Center – 345

Keynote Lecture: Implausibility and Probability in Studies of Qur’anic Origins

Emran El-Badawi, University of Houston, Introduction (10 min)

Aziz Al-Azmeh, Central European University, Budapest, Panelist (45 min)

Jane McAuliffe, Bryn Mawr University, Respondent (20 min)

International Qur’anic Studies Association

11/23/2013
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel – Paca

Theme: Approaches and Theories on the Translation of the Qur’an

Helen Blatherwick, University of London, Presiding

Maria Dakake, George Mason University
The Original Soul and the “Womb” of Kinship: The Feminine and the Universal in Qur’an 4:1 (25 min)

A. J. Droge, Translator
Traduttore, Traditore? Revisiting Mr. Nabokov (25 min)

Devin J. Stewart, Emory University
The Translation of Divine Epithets in the Qur’an (25 min)

Omar Tarazi, Independent Scholar
Translating the Qur’an’s Aesthetic and Intellectual Features into Plain English (25 min)

Shawkat M. Toorawa, Cornell University
Translation and the Sad Fate of the Qur’an’s Most (?) Important Feature (25 min)

Discussion (25 min)

International Qur’anic Studies Association
11/23/2013
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Marriott Baltimore Inner Harbor – Stadium Ballroom II

Theme: Qu’ran and Gender

Farid Esack, University of Johannesburg, Presiding

Juliane Hammer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Equity, Equality, or Hierarchy: American Tafsir on Gender Roles in Marriage (20 min)

Discussion (10 min)

Kecia Ali, Boston University
Destabilizing Gender, Reproducing Maternity: Qur’anic Narratives of Mary (20 min)

Discussion (10 min)

Marion Holmes Katz, New York University
The Ethical Body and The Gendered Body In The Qur’an (20 min)

Discussion (10 min)

Hamza M. Zafer, University of Washington
The Sons (and Daughters) of Israel: Gender In Qur’anic Negotiations of Jewish Lineage (20 min)

Discussion (10 min)

Aziz al-Azmeh, Central European University, Respondent (10 min)

Discussion (20 min)

International Qur’anic Studies Association
Joint Session With: International Qur’anic Studies Association, Qur’an and Biblical Literature
11/23/2013
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Marriott Baltimore Inner Harbor – Stadium Ballroom II

Michael Pregill, Elon University, Presiding

Michael Graves, Wheaton College (Illinois)
Kernel Texts and Prophetic Logia: Biblical and Quranic Scholarship in Dialogue (20 min)

David Penchansky, University of Saint Thomas (Saint Paul, MN)
Daughters of Deity in the Bible and the Quran (20 min)

Abdulla Galadari, University of Aberdeen
Begotten of God: A Quranic Interpretation of the Logos (20 min)

David Hollenberg, University of Oregon
Ships of Faith, Islands of Salvation: Stories of the Prophets as Intra-Sectarian Shi’ite Polemic (20 min)

Clare Wilde, University of Auckland
Quranic Echoes of the bnay qeyama (20 min)

Discussion (20 min)

Business Meeting (20 min)

International Qur’anic Studies Association
Joint Session With: International Qur’anic Studies Association, Qur’an and Biblical Literature
11/24/2013
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel – Johnson B

Theme: Modern Muslim Critics of Bible and Isra’iliyyat

Brannon Wheeler, United States Naval Academy, Presiding

Gabriel Said Reynolds, University of Notre Dame
Reading the Bible with Ahmad Deedat (20 min)

Michael Pregill, Elon University
Modern Critics of Isra’iliyyat and the Problem of Isma’ (20 min)

Younus Mirza, Allegheny College
Abridging the Isra’iliyyat: Shaykh Ahmad Shakir’s (d.1377/1958) Summary of Tafsir Ibn Kathir (20 min)

Roberto Tottoli, Universita degli Studi di Napoli l’Orientale
Isra’iliyyat: A Tool of Muslim Exegesis and Western Studies (20 min)

Discussion (20 min)

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