By Andrew Rippin
Following is the text of my foreword to Morteza Karimi-Nia, Bibliography of Qur’anic Studies in European Languages (Qum: Center for Translation of the Holy Quran [CTHQ], March 2013). The bibliography is comprised of 8812 entries; as described in Karimi-Nia’s introduction, it is an exhaustive bibliography of books and articles published in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Latin, within the time-span of 1500-2012 CE. The works catalogued fall in the following categories: general books and bibliographies, Qur’anic sciences (all branches), history of the Qur’an, Qur’anic scripts and manuscripts, tafsīr works and studies, history of tafsīr and the exegetes, Qur’an translators and translation studies, Qur’anic vocabulary and etymology, studies focusing on Qur’anic verses, Suras, personages, or concepts, Qur’anic scholars, the Qur’an and challenges of the modern world, and critiques of Western Qur’anic works. It does not include translations of the Qur’an as such.
A bibliography is defined as “a list of writings relating to a given subject.” It is that, of course, but it is also so very much more. A bibliography serves to define a field of study and to document that field’s history, contours, and participants. It displays in a lucid way how areas of interest come and go over time, and, in its silences and absences, suggests areas of investigation that still need attention.
This bibliography of Qur’anic studies tells us a great deal about our discipline as it has unfolded in European languages. Several observations may be made. For one, the extent of this bibliography has reached proportions that no individual scholar could hope to be intimately acquainted with all of its entries. That state of affairs reflects not only the general phenomenon of the explosion of knowledge—and of the access to that knowledge—in contemporary times but also the significant increase in interest in the scholarly study of the Qur’an in recent decades. The range of topics that this bibliography covers is impressive as well; it is possible to see the emergence of sub-disciplines within Qur’anic studies in the way subjects start to cohere: manuscript studies, tafsīr studies, textual studies, thematic studies, historical studies, the Qur’an in ritual, and so forth.
It is also worth noticing the range of names associated with the scholarly endeavor of Qur’anic studies reflected in this bibliography. Given that all this writing is in European languages, it is notable that the names of the authors reflect the global diversity that is the academic world today. On the basis of those names alone, one would have difficulty in asserting that research in this area is the domain of one particular culture, language, ethnicity, gender, or religion. This fact signifies a number of things. It shows that the Qur’an has truly entered into the canon of world literature, subject to analysis through a wide range of methods, approaches and presuppositions. It also uncovers a hopeful message for the future. I often encounter expressions of distrust when it comes to considering writings about the Qur’an stemming from “outside” Islam. Certainly it is possible to point to entries in this bibliography that no reputable scholar would wish to cite as anything other than a component in the history of the discipline: the existence of bias and questionable motives on the part of some writers must be acknowledged and we must all be alert to the need to detect it (and to teach our students how to assess their sources critically). However, what a bibliography such as this shows us is the active dialogue and debate that is taking place in the academic world of Qur’anic studies across every border and boundary. And that, I believe, is a positive sign that should encourage further development of scholarly studies of the Qur’an and its world.
In the end, however, a bibliography is primarily a research tool, one that allows us access to what other scholars have investigated. The importance of that cannot be overstated. Scholarship must take place as a conversation, a back-and-forth between the individual academic and the scholarly community. It is only in such a way that scholarship can move ahead; that is also how we come to understand the history of why certain questions have become focal points for investigation and why research questions are framed in the way that they are. Every new piece of scholarship must, if it is to be useful and significant, stand in an acknowledged relationship with what has come before it. Thus, this bibliography is an indispensible tool, and all scholars of the Qurʾān from all around the world owe a substantial debt of gratitude to Morteza Karimi-Nia for his efforts in producing this invaluable resource.
© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2013. All rights reserved.