The Routledge Handbook on Early Islam

The formative period of Islam remains highly contested. From the beginning of modern scholarship on this formative period, scholars have questioned traditional Muslim accounts on early Islam. The scholarly fixation is mirrored by sectarian groups and movements within Islam, most of which trace their origins to this period. Moreover, contemporary movements from Salafists to modernists continue to point to Islam’s origins to justify their positions.


This Handbook provides a definitive overview of early Islam and how this period was understood and deployed by later Muslims. It is split into four main parts, the first of which explores the debates and positions on the critical texts and figures of early Islam. The second part turns to the communities that identified their origins with the Qurʾān and Muḥammad. In addition to the development of Muslim identities and polities, of particular focus is the relationship with groups outside or movements inside of the umma (the collective community of Muslims). The third part looks beyond what happened from the 7th to the 9th centuries CE and explores what that period, the events, figures, and texts have meant for Muslims in the past and what they mean for Muslims today. Not all Muslims or scholars are willing to merely reinterpret early Islam and its sources, though; some are willing to jettison parts, or even all, of the edifice that has been constructed over almost a millennium and a half. The Handbook therefore concludes with discussions of re-imaginations and revisions of early Islam and its sources.

Almost every major debate in the study of Islam and among Muslims looks to the formative period of Islam. The wide range of contributions from many of the leading academic experts on the subject therefore means that this book will be a valuable resource for all students and scholars of Islamic studies, as well as for anyone with an interest in early Islam.

Edited by Herbert Berg, The Routledge Handbook on Early Islam has been published by Routledge and can be ordered on their website.

*Accessed from the publisher’s product page.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2017. All rights reserved.

Marginal Notes on: ASWS 73 — the root HGR in pre-Islamic Arabic Ahmad Al-Jallad∗

The meaning of the root hgr in Arabic has attracted much attention recently, especially with regard to the meaning of the word muhājir as it is used in the Qur’an and early Islamic texts; see for example Lindstedt 2015. The meaning ‘to migrate’ in Arabic has come under scrutiny and I was asked on Twitter if it was attested in Safaitic, as this sense seems to be unique to Classical (and later) Arabic. The root hgr is found in Ancient South Arabian, where it broadly speaking refers to ‘settlements’ (city, town), and a similar range of meanings is found in Geʿez, but none of these languages attests the meaning ‘to migrate’.

The lexeme hgr does in fact occur in Safaitic in a context strongly favoring the meaning ‘to migrate’. I thought it would be useful to expand on the Safaitic occurrence of this word, as it would be the first pre-Islamic attestation with this meaning. This will, hopefully, allow the Safaitic evidence to be used properly in future debates on the etymology of Qur’anic muhājir.

The term is attested in the inscription ASWS 73, which was discovered in 1998 and edited first in the MA thesis of Bani Awaḏ in 1999. I re-edited the text in 2016, giving the translation now found on OCIANA but without going into great philological detail regarding the term hgr. While the text is only know from the poor photograph below, the word hgr is absolutely clear. The reading and translation of the text as given in Al-Jallad (2016: 97) is as follows:


Photograph of ASWS 73 (courtesy OCIANA)


The word HGR outlined


l rbʾl bn ḥnn bn ẓʿn bn ẖyḏ bn ʿḏr w wrd ḥḏr f mlḥ f ḏkr f ʾmt f ʾmt w ngʿ ʿl- ḥbb w ʿl- h-ʾbl rʿy-h hgr m-mdbr s¹nt myt bnt

“By Rbʾl son of Ḥnn son of Ẓʿn son of H̲ yḏ son of ʿḏr and he went to water cautious of drought, then (again) in Aquarius, then Aries, then Libra, and then Libra (again, i.e. for two years in a row), during which he grieved in pain for a loved one and for the camels, which he pastured, having migrated from the inner desert, the year Bnt died.”


The text begins like most Safaitic inscriptions with the lam auctoris introducing the subject of the inscription:

l rbʾl bn ḥnn bn ẓʿn bn ḫyḏ bn ʿḏr

By Rabbʾel son of Ḥonayn son of Ẓaʿn son of H̲ayāḏ son of ʿaḏar

This is the only inscription carved by this individual in the OCIANA corpus.


The rest of the inscription describes a drought, using the common verb wrd ‘to go to water’.

w wrd ḥḏr f mlḥ f ḏkr f ʾmt f ʾmt

“and he went to water cautious of drought, then (again) in Aquarius, then Aries, then Libra, and then Libra (again, i.e. for two years in a row)”

This verb is often used in conjunction with migrations and the constellations, and sometimes with the watering location explicitly mentioned, e.g. wrd h-bʾr b-h-nmrt ‘he went to water at the well near Namarah’. On the names of the constellation and the yearly cycle in Safaitic, see Al-Jallad 2016.


The second clause gives the circumstances under which this migration took place and dates the writing of the text:

w ngʿ ʿl-ḥbb w ʿl-h-ʾbl rʿy-h hgr m-mdbr s¹nt myt bnt

‘and he grieved in pain for a loved one and for the camels, which he pastured, having migrated from the inner desert the year Bnt died’

‘while’the conjunction /wa/ introduces a circumstantial clause.

ngʿ ‘he grieved in pain’A common verb of grieving, likely the N-stem of the wgʿ ‘to feel pain’ (Al-Jallad 2015: 351; Abbadi and Al-Manaser 2016).

ʿl-ḥbb w ʿl-h-ʾbl ‘for a loved one and the camels’ : The objects of ngʿ  are introduced by the preposition ʿl-ḥbb ‘a loved one’ or a personal name, and ʾbl the collective noun ‘camels’. The grieving for the camels may suggest that they, along with a loved one, perished during the drought.

rʿy-h hgr m-mdbr ‘which he pastured, having/while migrated/ing from the inner desert’: an asyndetic relative clause modifying camels; Safaitic, unlike Classical Arabic, permits asyndetic relative clauses with definite antecedents (Al-Jallad 2015: 188-190). Rʿy is the common verb ‘to pasture’ (Classical Arabic raʿā) with a clitic feminine singular pronoun, -h, referring back to camels. hgr is a circumstantial adverb, likely a G-stem participle, the complement of which is m-mdbr ‘from the inner desert’. It can be taken as a continuous action or a perfective.

The crux of this clause is therefore the interpretation of hgr. In my 2016 edition, I suggested that it meant ‘to migrate’, equivalent to the Arabic L-stem (form III). This meaning is supported by the following facts.

1) The inscription already describes a movement to a place of water because of the lack of rain, indicating a migration from the inner desert where it would be impossible to pasture during a drought.

2) the phrase m-mdbr ‘from the inner desert’ is attested some thirty times in the corpus, mostly as the complement of the verb ṣyr ‘to return to a place of water’ (HaNSB 226; SIJ 827; WH 927 etc.), but also once with ʾty ‘to come’ (KRS 262). Thus, the phrase implies movement away from the desert.

These facts suggest that hgr is then a verb of motion. The G-stem of hgr in Classical Arabic means to ‘abandon’ or ‘cut off’, e.g. hajara-hū ‘he forsook him’ or ‘he left it, abandoned it’. If Safaitic hgr were equivalent to the Arabic, then we should expect mdbr to be its direct object rather than being introduced by the preposition m- ‘from’; this meaning is attested in Safaitic as well (see below). Instead, the present hgr seems to correspond to the Classical Arabic form III (L-stem) hājara ‘he went forth from his desert to the cities and towns’. This meaning suits the context well since areas of permanent water have permanent settlements, such as Namarah (mentioned above). Thus, it may have begun as a denominal verb meaning ‘to go towards settled areas’ then meaning ‘to migrate (from desert to settlement)’. The meaning ‘territory’, possibly referring to settled areas, for hgr is also attested in Safaitic (see below).

Other attestations of hgr:

Lexemes derived from hgr are rare in Safaitic. The following cases are known to me:

hgr ‘to cut off, abandon’

C 4393: hgr-h ʾs2yʿ-h f h lt slm ‘he companions abandoned him so, O Lt, may he be secure’


hgr = ‘territory’

h rḍy ġnmt m-hgr s2nʾt

‘O Rḍy, [grant] spoil from the territory (=settled areas?) of enemies’


hgr = ‘to cut off’ or ‘to migrate’

WH 1230: l zgr bn ʾbgr h-dr w kmd hgr  ‘by Zgr son of ʾbgr, in this region, and he went into hiding while migrating/having been cut off’

The laconic language of this inscription does not allow us to zero in on the exact meaning of hgr.



Al-Jallad, A. 2015. An Outline of the Grammar of the Safaitic Inscriptions. (SSLL 80). Leiden: Brill.

Al-Jallad, A. An Ancient Arabian Zodiac. The Constellations in the Safaitic Inscriptions. Part II. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 27, 2016: 84–106.

[ASWS] Banī ʿAūād, ʿAbdel ar-Raḥman. Dirāsat nuqūš ṣafawiyyah ǧadīdah min ǧanūb wādī sārah/ al-bādiyah al-ʾurdunniyyah aš-šamāliyyah. Unpublished MA thesis, Yarmouk University. 1999.

[HaNSB] Ḥarāḥšah [Harahsheh], R.M.A. Nuqūš ṣafāʾiyyah min al-bādīyah al-urdunīyah al-šimālīyyah al-šarqīyah — dirāsah wa-taḥlīl. Amman: Ward, 2010.

[KRS] Inscriptions recorded by Geraldine King on the Basalt Desert Rescue Survey in north-eastern Jordan in 1989.

[SIJ] Winnett, F.V. Safaitic Inscriptions from Jordan. (Near and Middle East Series, 2). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957.

[WH] Winnett, F.V. & Harding, G.L. Inscriptions from Fifty Safaitic Cairns. (Near and Middle East Series, 9). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978.


Ahmad Al-Jallad is a University Lecturer at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He specializes in the early history of Arabic and North Arabian.  He has done research on Arabic from the pre-Islamic period based on documentary sources, the Graeco-Arabica (Arabic in Greek transcription from the pre-Islamic period), language classification, North Arabian epigraphy, and historical Semitic linguistics.  He has written the first grammar of Safaitic, a corpus of Ancient North Arabian inscriptions from northern Jordan and southern Syria; its second edition, with a dictionary of more than 1400 entries will appear soon with Brill.

His current book project ‘The Word, the Blade, and the Pen: Three thousand years of Arabic’ (Princeton University Press) tells the story of the Arabic language, from its first attestations in the Iron Age until the age of the Internet. For more, see here.


This essay originally appeared online on Doctor Al-Jallad’s blog, and has been republished here with his kind permission.


© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2017. All rights reserved.

Annual Meeting Graduate Student Reception



Attention current students and recent graduates! IQSA is delighted to host a special reception for students at our Annual Meeting in Boston:

Date: Saturday November 18th
Time: Lunch Reception, 11:30am-12:45pm
Venue: TBA (Off-site)

This will be a valuable opportunity for emerging scholars to mingle with established experts in Qur’anic studies in a more relaxed setting–with a light lunch in a semi-private dining area.

IQSA is committed to fostering community in Qur’anic studies by supporting students on their path to professional success and encouraging collaboration across generations, all of which are vital to the advancement of knowledge in our field.

If you are planning to attend the Annual Meeting in Boston, please consider attending the Student Reception. We ask that you please RSVP to IQSA at

We hope to see you there!

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2017. All rights reserved.

Urgent: New US Visa Restrictions before Nov 17 Boston Meeting

Dear Members of the International Qur’an Studies Association,

In advance of the 2017 Annual Meeting in Boston one month from today (November 17, 2017), certain dual US citizens and non-US citizens should note the urgent advice below. If you have not already you need to apply for a visa to enter the United States through the new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) system.

Speakers at the Annual Meeting of SBL, AAR, and IQSA who do not hold a US passport and intend to travel as part of the Visa Waiver Program should note the following:

  1. According to current US Government advice, dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen are not anymore considered eligible to take part in the Visa Waiver Program even if they hold a first or second passport by a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program.
  2. Furthermore, and this may be much less well known, anyone who has merely travelled to one of the above-mentioned countries after 1 March 2011 is also considered ineligible to take part in the Visa Waiver Program even if he/she does not hold dual nationality. An ESTA application submitted is likely to be declined.

(On both points, see e.g.,

Thus, any speaker to whom (1) or (2) applies will need to submit a full visa application in order to travel to the Annual Meeting. This is a complex, costly, and time-consuming process that ought to be commenced immediately in order to ensure that travel to the US will be possible in November.

Finally, it is advised that those already granted permission before the new ESTA regulations re-apply immediately. We apologize for any inconvenience this will cause you. IQSA is doing everything it can to help its members and ensure a safe and fruitful meeting in Boston. Should you have any further questions please write

Emran El-Badawi, Executive Director, International Qur’anic Studies Association

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2017. All rights reserved.

Review of Qur’anic Research, Vol. 3 no.9 (2017)

In the latest installment of the Review of Qur’anic Research (Vol. 3 no.9), Peter G. Riddell (Melbourne School of Theology) reviews Eloïse Brac de la Perrière and Monique Buresi’s Le Coran de Gwalior: Polysémie d’un manuscrit à peintures (Paris: Éditions de Boccard, 2016.).


“One of the most significant military success of Tamerlane occurred on 17 December 1398, when he sacked and plundered Delhi, the heart of the Sultanate of Delhi under the Tughluq dynasty. It was in such turbulent times that the Gwalior Qurʾān was produced at the fortress of Gwalior on 11 July 1399, according to its colophon. It is written in Bihari script, a variant of naskh that was prevalent in northern India between the period of Tamerlane and the establishment of the Mughal Dynasty. The MS colophon makes mention of a certain Muḥammad Shaʿbān, who probably supervised production of the manuscript…”

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, 2017. All rights reserved.

Ṭanṭāwī Jawharī and the Qurʾān: Tafsīr and Social Concerns in the Twentieth Century

“Shaykh Ṭanṭāwī Jawharī was an Egyptian exegete known for having produced a scientific interpretation of the Qurʾān. A pioneering scholar in terms of familiarising the people of his time with many previously neglected matters regarding Islam and science, his publications shocked the Cairo educational system and other Muslim places of learning in the early twentieth century.


This book examines the intersection between Ṭanṭāwī Jawharī and Egyptian history and culture, and demonstrates that his approach to science in the Qurʾān was intimately connected to his social concerns. Divided into three parts, part one contains three chapters which each introduce different aspects of Ṭanṭāwī Jawharī himself. The second part explores the main aspects of his tafsīr, discussing his approach to science and the Qurʾān, and how he presented Europeans in his tafsīr, and then addressing the impact of his tafsīr on wider Muslim and non-Muslim society. The third section draws attention to the themes from all 114 sūras of the Qurʾān that are discussed within his commentary. It then analyses the current status of his views and the post-Jawharism perspective on science and the Qurʾān, both today and in an imaginary future, in 2154.

Providing new English translations of Ṭanṭāwī Jawharī’s work, the book delivers a comprehensive assessment of this unique figure, and emphasises the distinctive nature of his reading of the Qurʾān. The book will be a valuable resource for anyone studying modern Egypt, the Qurʾān, Islam and Science, and scientific interpretation and inimitability.”

Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group


Bibliographic Information:
Daneshgar, Majid. Ṭanṭāwī Jawharī and the Qurʼān: tafsīr and social concerns in the twentieth century. Abingdon: Routledge, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.

New Publication “The Qur’an: A Historical-Critical Introduction”

(Content courtesy of Edinburgh University Press)

The International Qur’anic Studies Association is pleased to announce the publication of The Qur’an: A Historical-Critical Introduction by member Nicolai Sinai (Chair of Programming Committee). Nicolai Sinai is Professor of Islamic Studies at the Oriental Institute, Oxford University, and a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford. He has published on the Qur’an, on pre-modern and modern Islamic scriptural exegesis, and on the history of philosophy in the Islamic world.

“The Qur’an represents both Islam’s historical point of origin and its scriptural foundation, inaugurating a new religion and, ultimately, a new civilisation. Yet the text itself can be difficult to understand, and the scholarship devoted to it is often highly technical. This comprehensive introduction to the basic methods and current state of historical-critical Qur’anic scholarship covers all of the field’s major questions, such as: Where and when did the Qur’an emerge? How do Qur’anic surahs function as literary compositions? How do the Qur’an’s main themes and ideas relate to and transform earlier Jewish and Christian traditions?” –Edinburgh University Press


Table of Contents


Part One: Background
1 Some basic features of the Qur’an
2 Muhammad and the Qur’an
3 The Qur’anic milieu

Part Two: Method
4 Literary coherence and secondary revision
5 Inner-Qur’anic chronology
6 Intertextuality

Part Three: A diachronic survey of the Qur’anic proclamations
7 The Meccan surahs
8 The Medinan surahs

ISBN Hardback: 9780748695768
Paperback: 9780748695775
eBook (PDF): 9780748695782
eBook (ePub): 9780748695799

Find this publication at your local library or for purchase online at Edinburgh University Press!

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2017. All rights reserved.