Podcast Series: Introducing the Qur’ān

Professor Nicolai Sinai, of the University of Oxford, has recorded four short talks funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council which aim to introduce the general public to aspects of current research on the Qur’ān’s historical context and literary character. These are now available as podcasts online here:


Link: https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/introducing-quran

Although most IQSA members will be familiar with more specialised scholarship on many of the issues covered in these talks, they may be useful for teaching purposes.

The four 10 – 20 minute talks are entitled:

  1. Hovering about the Qur’an without entering into it? On the academic study of the Qur’an, asks what it means to study the Qur’ān historically and considers how historically orientated research on the Qur’ān relates to religious belief and traditional Islamic scriptural interpretation.
  2. Rekindling Prophecy: The Qur’an in its historical milieu, examines the historical context in which the material now collected in the Qur’ān was first promulgated with special attention being paid to the various groups addressed by the Qur’ān.
  3. Confirming and Clarifying: The Qur’an in conversation with earlier Judaeo-Christian traditions, discusses the fact that the Qur’an’s original audience must have been familiar with earlier Jewish and Christian traditions, which the Qur’an claims both to “confirm” and “clarify”. Narratives about Abraham and the death of Pharaoh serve to exemplify what this means.
  4. The Qur’an as literature, takes as its starting point that the Qur’ān’s compelling literary aspect was the main reason it was able to establish itself as a text believed to constitute divine revelation. It further asks how Islamic and modern Western scholars approach the Qur’ān’s literary dimension.


Many thanks to Professor Sinai for sharing this free resource.

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

REGISTRATION OPEN Annual Meeting 2018


Registration is NOW OPEN for the IQSA Annual Meeting held in conjunction with the SBL/AAR Annual Meetings in Denver, Colorado from November 16-19, 2018. You can save on the registration fee by joining IQSA and registering for the Annual Meetings as an Affiliate Member HERE! To become an IQSA member click HERE. Registration for the IQSA Annual Meeting does not require SBL or AAR membership.

Reserve your spot before rates increase on May 24th!

For step by step instructions to Register for the Annual Meeting, click HERE.

For step by step instructions to Join IQSA, click HERE.

Questions? Email contact@iqsaweb.org. Otherwise, we look forward to seeing you in Denver!

IQSA Executive Office

How to Register for the 2018 Annual Meeting: Step by Step Instructions

Registration is NOW OPEN for the IQSA Annual Meeting held in conjunction with the SBL/AAR Annual Meetings in Denver, Colorado from November 16-19, 2017. You can save on the registration fee by joining IQSA and registering for the Annual Meetings as an Affiliate Member! Go HERE for Step by Step Instructions on Joining IQSA. Scroll down for Step by Strep Instructions on registering for the Annual Meeting.

Step 1: Open a web browser and go to SBL’s Meetings and Events page. Select “Register for the Annual Meeting” under the “Registration and Housing” heading.


Step 2: Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “New Registration” under the “Affiliate Members” heading.


Step 3: Click “New Registration.”

New Registration

Step 4: Fill in your Last Name and Email address (there is no identifier code for IQSA members). Click “Continue.”


Step 5: Select “International Qur’anic Studies Organization” from the drop-down menu and fill in the rest of the required fields. Click “Continue.”


Step 6: Select your Child Care, Visa Letter, and Program Book preferences and fill in your disability accommodations and emergency contact information. Click “Continue.”


Step 7: Complete your preferences for events, tours, environmental options, and luncheons (noting the extra charge per item). Click “Continue.”


Step 8: Select your housing and accommodation preferences and click “Continue.”


Step 9: Fill in your arrival and departure dates, occupancy, special requests, and payment information. IQSA events will take place from November 17-20. Click “Continue.”


Step 10: Choose if you will be registering as a guest, noting the additional price. Click “Continue.”


Step 11: Complete method of payment information, noting the Terms and Conditions and Cancellation Policy. Click “Make Payment.”


Step 12: Print or email the confirmation and receipt/invoice for your own records, following the instructions in the dialog boxes.


You are now finished registering for the IQSA Annual Meeting! We look forward to seeing you in Denver!

Please email contact@iqsaweb.org for any questions or concerns.


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

The 5th Annual Conference of the British Association of Islamic Studies (BRAIS), Exeter, UK

Scholars of the Qur’an and Islam from around the world came together at the University of Exeter in early April for the 5th annual conference of the British Association of Islamic Studies (BRAIS), hosted by the University’s Centre for Arabic and Islamic Studies.


The panel on “Qu’ranic Studies I: Qur’anic Contexts, Concepts and Terms” included papers on pre-qur’ānic poetry, guile or deception, nafs, angels and w-ḥ-y. Jaako Hämeen-Anttila (Edinburgh) spoke about “The Qur’an and Early Arabic Poetry” specifically Al-Khansā’’s mutaqārib poem. While Al-Khansā’’s poetry generally shows little influence of Islamic thought or use of qur’ānic vocabulary the mutaqārib poem appears to be an exception to this rule, as it exhibits some striking qur’ānic influences, which can best be appreciated in comparison with Sūrat al-Zalzala (Q99: 1-5). Despite the presence of clear qur’ānic echoes in the Kāmil version, that version cannot properly be called a seventh century poem. Although most of the poem’s verses do come from the original version, the Kāmil version is much later. Professor Hämeen-Anttila surmised that the poem appears to have been deliberately ‘islamicised’ in the Kāmil version, which exhibits a strong dependence on the Qur’ān, a trait that is absent in the Dīwān versions.

Taira Amin (Lancaster) presented a paper entitled “Verily it is of your guile; verily your guile is great! (Q12:28): A Critical Discourse Analysis of all References to kayd (guile) in the Qur’ān and Classical Tafsir”, which forms part of her analysis of the Joseph, Mary and Solomon narratives in the Qur’ān. Using the example of the Joseph narrative, she noted how the notion of deception has been attributed to the female figures in the passage and examined how this was interpreted by early Islamic exegetes, what kinds of discourses and ideas about women ensued from these exegetical discourses and how they evolved between the formative and post-Classical periods. She found, not only that deception was often viewed positively with regards to men and negatively when applied women but also that the notion of guile in relation to women has evolved over time. In relation to the five kayd verses from the Joseph narrative, Taira compared and contrasted the interpretative strategies and conclusions of three Islamic exegetes: Al-Zamaksharī, Al-Qurṭubī and Al-Bayḍāwī, who all made similar claims regarding women’s kayd with differing degrees of criticism but employed diverse forms of authority ranging from the ulama to divine authority to prophetic hadith. Taira was critical of the exegetes’ atomistic approach and literal, de-contextualised interpretation, as well as their re-contextualisation of the supporting evidence employed. Despite the traditional attribution of kayd to women, Taira found that of the 35 occurrences of the term in the Qur’ān, only six of these relate to women and the group to whom it is applied most often are the Unbelievers (20 times), and yet this is not mentioned in the interpretations she outlined.


Abdullah Galadari (Khalifa University) discussed “The Concept of Nafs in the Qur’an”, and asked whether the Qur’ān understands nafs in the same way as the Ancient Israelites understood the term nefesh, as referring to a disembodied soul. Dr Galadari explained that the answer is complicated by the fact that early Muslim scholars often used the terms nafs (soul) and rū(spirit) interchangeably, despite the fact that the Qur’ān appears to distinguish between both and assumes its audience is familiar with the former but not the latter. The philosophical view, as outlined by Al-Rāzī (d. 606/1209) is that the soul (nafs) is different from the body (badan) and that the soul does not die, even though this suggestion contradicts the Qur’ān. Although the nafs might appear to go hand in hand with a physical body, Dr Galadari’s examination of the qur’ānic material showed that the word nafs does not typically subject itself with a physical body. The reason for this is that, if God has a nafs but God is not a physical being, a nafs cannot be something physical. This raises the question, when the Qur’ān explicitly discusses the death and resurrection of the soul, why it is typically understood as the death and resurrection of the body. In answering this question, Dr Galadari posited that the death of the soul could be understood as a form of spiritual death, with unbelievers being physically alive but more akin to zombies. He concluded by discussing what implications this has for understanding and interpreting qur’ānic references to resurrection and suggested that the Qur’ān appears to talk about two deaths and two lives, that of the nafs and that of the body.

Rachel Dryden (Cambridge) presented the results of her research to date on angels in the Qur’an, with a paper entitled “Angels in the Qur’an: From Heaven to Earth and from Mecca to Medina”, concluding that although the Qur’ān stresses the importance of belief in angels relatively infrequently, as Stephen Burge has noted, angels do in fact appear to be a “fundamental part of the Islamic worldview”. While the noun malak/malā’ika (angel) appears most frequently in material from the Medinan Period, angels are referred to by a range of other terms, which are often limited to certain periods or roles. Angels are described as performing a variety of distinct roles throughout the Qur’ān and while the range of roles remains fairly stable across all periods, some are limited to one or more of them. Rachel believes that the differences between the four qur’ānic periods are key to understanding angels and their roles in the Qur’ān and stressed the necessity of examining the terms, roots and roles assigned to them in each period, in order to understand in how angels are viewed and portrayed in the Qur’ān and how this changes between Mecca and Medina.

Simon Loynes (Edinburgh) spoke about “The Meaning and Function of the Term waḥy in the Qur’ān”,  arguing that in pre-Islamic poetry, the root w-ḥ-y refers to a type of communication, which can only be understood by the one receiving it and is incomprehensible to outsiders. This meaning would appear to be carried over into the Qur’ān, albeit considerably realigned, to refer to the divine communication of revelation to prophets. Simon cited the many verses which link the root with the qur’ānic Messenger’s revelatory experience, as evidence of this, something which can also be observed regarding earlier prophets.


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

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

In the latest installment of the Review of Qur’anic Research (Vol. 4, no.4), Marion Holmes Katz (New York University) reviews Hina Azam’s Sexual Violation in Islamic Law: Substance, Evidence, and Procedure (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).


In her review, Katz writes… “Hina Azam’s study not only makes an incisive contribution to the literature on Islamic penal law, but engages with a much wider set of issues involving Muslim jurists’ conceptualization of marriage and of moral and legal personhood. While the body of the book meticulously examines fiqh texts dating from the formative period through approximately the twelfth century C.E., the project is framed in the introduction and conclusion as a constructive response to the introduction of formally “sharīʿah-based” penalties for illicit sex in a number of countries since the late twentieth century. In tracing the highly contingent and contested paths through which crimes of sexual violence were defined and re-defined over the centuries—and by drawing a vivid comparison between the fundamentally distinct paths followed by the Maliki and the Hanafi schools—she demonstrates that received understandings of sharīʿah in this area are far from inevitable…”

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.


Reconstruction of a Source of Ibn Isḥāq’s Life of the Prophet and Early Qur’ān Exegesis: A Study of Early Ibn ‘Abbās Traditions

This important work is a source-critical study of a group of traditions (aḥādīth) found in Ibn Isḥāq’s Biography (Sīra) of the prophet Muḥammad, widely considered one of the most important early historical texts on the Prophet’s life. Through a meticulous isnād-cum-matn analysis, the author reveals that Ibn Isḥāq relied on Muḥammad b. Abī Muḥammad, a hitherto undocumented source of his. Important new light is also shed on problems with Ibn Hishām’s recension of Ibn Isḥāq’s Sīra.*


Author: Harold Motzki (retired), is one of the world’s foremost specialists in the field of early and medieval Islamic history and law, on which he has authored multiple groundbreaking books and articles. Together with Professor Gregor Schoeler, Motzki is credited with establishing the isnād-cum-matn methodology, which seeks to reconstruct and date historical texts from the early Islamic period.

Series: Islamic History and Thought 3
ISBN: 978-1-4632-0659-8
Publication Date: May, 2017

*Content courtesy of Gorgias Press


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

Academic Colloquium: Reading is Believing? Sacred texts in a Scientific Age Cambridge, March 2018


A three-day colloquium on science and scripture in Christianity and Islam was held at the end of March, at Clare College, Cambridge by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion and the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. The larger project, on Science and Scripture in Christianity and Islam, examines the extent to which understandings of textual hermeneutics shape the relationship between science and religion, and aims to understand how Christian and Muslim scientists relate their scriptures and traditions to the scientific worlds in which they operate.

The colloquium included several papers on how scientific knowledge relates to the Qur’ān and Islam, and a closing keynote speech by Professor Salman Hameed (Hampshire College MA), on “The Role of Qur’ān in the Acceptance or Rejection of Biological Evolution”.

Before this, Dr Shoaib Ahmed Malik, (Zayed University, Dubai) spoke about the “Hermeneutics of New Atheism: Qur’ān and Hadiths on Trial”, noting the almost complete absence of literature on atheism and Islam, and stressed the need for research from both insider and outsider perspectives. Following a general introduction to New Atheism, Dr Malik discussed its links with Islam, finding that while New Atheism has become linked to Islamophobia, it has also become a form of identity for some former Muslims. Dr Malik identified four different ways in which New Atheists approach Islamic literature as (i) Sciencism, which believes that all components of science are culturally constructed valid references and intellectual filters, which Islamic authorities will have to (eventually, if not now) compete with; (ii) Naturalism; (iii) Secularism and (iv) a Simplistic approach.

He concluded that Islam is a central concern for New Atheists, who employ the same acontextual, literal, cherry-picking methodology, as fundamentalists, in staking their claims about the Qur’ān and hadith. Collectively, these are intended to undermine authoritative Islamic hermeneutics, and Muslim thinkers must therefore deconstruct these atheist hermeneutics and amplify authentic/traditional Islamic ones in responding to them.

Dr Shuruq Naguib (Lancaster, “Reading is Understanding: Bint al-Shāṭi’ on Scientific Exegesis of the Qur’ān”), discussed Professor al-Shāṭi’s life and legacy, as the first woman to author a commentary on the Qur’an, outlining her approach to the text and use of pre-modern tafsīr in developing her own exegetical methodology, while objecting to a scientific interpretation of the Qur’ān.

The colloquium concluded with the keynote address by Professor Salman Hameed (Hampshire College MA), on “The Role of Qur’ān in the Acceptance or Rejection of Biological Evolution”, presenting the results of research amongst medical professionals in Pakistan and Malaysia, which asked to what degree respondents accepted the theory of evolution and how this sat with their Islamic beliefs. Professor Hameed also discussed the reception of evolution in these two countries against the background of the legacy of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817 – 1898). A former geocentrist, Khan eventually concluded that science did not contradict the Qur’ān or religious belief and went on to defend evolution. He dedicated the latter half of his life to instigating internal reform in Islam, through the combination of both scientific and religious education, founding the institution that today is Aligarh University, in India.


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