Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize Winners 2020

The International Qurʾanic Studies Association is delighted to announce that the third annual Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize (open to papers delivered by early career scholars at the 2019 annual meeting) has been awarded to both Saqib Hussain (University of Oxford) and Andrew J. O’Connor (St. Norbert College). The winners of the Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize receives a cash award. In addition, an expanded and edited version of the winning paper qualifies for publication in the Journal of the International Qur’anic Studies Association.rippin

This award is given in honor of Prof. Andrew Rippin (1950-2016), a leading scholar of the Qurʾān and inaugural president of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (2014). Prof. Rippin is remembered as “an esteemed colleague, revered mentor, and scholarly inspiration to many members of the IQSA community.” An announcement regarding submissions for the fourth annual Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize will follow the 2020 IQSA annual meeting in Boston.

An abstract of both award winning papers follows:

“The Prophet’s Visions in Sūrat al-Najm.”
Saqib Hussain

Several fruitful studies have shown that sūrah-opening oaths frequently depict an observable, physical phenomenon as an artistic illustration of a supernatural reality that the sūrah goes on to describe. Q al-Najm 53 opens with an oath by the movement of the Star (al-najm), and goes on to describe the Prophet’s two visions of an angelic or divine being.  However, the connection between the oath by the Star and the Prophetic visions has hitherto proven difficult to establish. There are in addition several features of the visions that are difficult to understand. I show in this paper, by reference to pre-Islamic poetry and pre-Islamic astronomy, that the opening oath is recalling the motion of the Pleiades across the night sky, and this mirrors the Prophet’s described encounter with the divine/angelic being in the sūrah. This allows us to solve several interpretive difficulties that the sūrah presents. In addition, there appears to be a strong continuity between the broader astronomical lore of the sūrah and Safaitic inscriptions, which in turn can be used to further our understanding of the sūrah. Finally, as the Prophetic visions seem to describe the onset of revelation, I explore the possibility that we can use the astronomical data embedded in the sūrah to help date the solar month when the first revelation occurred.


“Paraenesis, Recreation, and the Revocation of Bodily Agency in Surat Ya Sin (Q 36).”
Andrew O’Connor

Surat Ya Sin (Q 36) employs a remarkable variety of imagery associated with the body, including both direct statements about parts of the body and evocative language appealing to one’s sense of pleasure or harm. This symbolism serves a paraenetic purpose, fostering a particular response from its addressees. Thus, it urges addressees to become inhabitants of paradise through appealing to their sense of bodily enjoyment, constructing a mental picture of leisure and recreation. However, the second component of this discourse is intentionally jarring and brings to mind violence to the body; in short, to describe unbelief the surah employs corporeal imagery that implies the revocation of bodily agency. The damned lose control of their body—their very limbs work against them to ensure their perdition. With this language in particular we can find echoes and developments of biblical symbolism. In this paper, I present the diverse ways that Surat Ya Sin constructs its arguments utilizing symbolism of the body. The surah uses somatic presentations of the otherworld as part of a rhetorical strategy: linking bodily resurrection with a bodily subsistence after judgment. I first (1) present a brief overview of some recent scholarship on heaven, hell, and the resurrection in the Qur’an and then (2) argue for the centrality of the doctrine of bodily resurrection in Q 36. Lastly I highlight the contrast between corporeal agency in (3) paradise and (4) the revocation of agency for unbelievers.

Saqib-pictureSaqib Hussain is a doctoral student at the University of Oxford, holding a scholarship from the AHRC and affiliated with the QuCIP project. He has studied for several years in Damascus and Cairo, focusing on Arabic and Qur’anic exegesis. His DPhil research is on the term “wisdom” in the Qur’an, and its possible connection to late antique notions of natural law. He has a forthcoming publication on Qur’anic textual criticism in the edited volume Unlocking the Medinan Qur’an, and a chapter on several minor Qur’anic prophets in the forthcoming Biblical Traditions in the Qur’an.

O'ConnorAndrew J. O’Connor is Assistant Professor of Theology & Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin (USA). He completed his Ph.D. in 2019 at the University of Notre Dame. His doctoral dissertation analyzed the Qur’an’s different models of prophethood in conversation with notions of prophecy within other communities in the Near East. He also holds a M.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Andrew’s current research interests are the Qur’an’s engagement with Jewish and Christian traditions (and the cultural/religious environment of Late Antiquity broadly speaking) and the Qur’an’s eschatology. Andrew was the recipient of a Fulbright Research Grant to study in Amman, Jordan, for 2017–18.


© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2020. All rights reserved.

New Publication: “An Early Christian Reaction to Islam: Išū‘yahb III and the Muslim Arabs” (Gorgias Press, 2019)

Gorgias Press has recently published a new book, An Early Christian Reaction to Islam: Išū‘yahb III and the Muslim Arabs, by Iskandar Bcheiry.

The year 652 marked a fundamental political change in the Middle East and the surrounding region. On this date the Sasanid Empire collapsed and the major part of the Byzantine dominion in the East was lost to the hands of Muslim Arabs. The conquests of the Arabs were followed by deep cultural, social and religious changes that affected the life of the populations in the seized territories. An important and contemporary source of the state of the Christian Church at this time is to be found in the correspondence of the patriarch of the Church of the East, Išū‘yahb III (649–659), which he wrote between 628 and 658. This books discusses Išū‘yahb’s view of and attitudes toward the Muslim Arabs. Although his view of the Muslim Arabs has been a subject of discussion by many scholars, there are still questions to be clarified about his attitudes towards the Muslim Arabs, especially with regard to the chronological development of his views, the issue of the dating of his letters and their chronological arrangement, as well as the identification of literary sources that he relied upon in portraying the Muslim Arabs.

Want to read more? Purchase the book at the Gorgias Press, or find it at a library near you!

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2020. All rights reserved.

Review of Qur’anic Research, Vol. 6 no. 2 (2020)


In the latest installment of the Review of Qur’anic Research (vol. 6, no.2), Sidney H. Griffith (The Catholic University of America)  reviews Holger M. Zellentin’s (ed.), The Qur’an’s Reformation of Judaism and Christianity: Return to the Origins (London & New York: Routledge, 2019).

6.2In his review, Griffith writes “The title of this important collection of scholarly articles already gives away the hypothesis the editor intends the dozen, first rate studies of qurʾānic passages included in the volume to commend. Namely, the view that one might best understand the Arabic scripture’s relationship with contemporary Judaism and Christianity by recognizing, as he says, “the Qur’an’s attempt to reform rather than to replace the religion of the Jews and the Christians of its time.” (3). This characterization of the Qurʾān’s purpose is already debatable, albeit that one readily recognizes that the text does envision the continuing existence of the “Scripture People” within its purview, whose beliefs and practices are nevertheless criticized and whose social well-being is subjected to demeaning restrictions (Q al-Tawbah 9:29). The problem is that in several Medinan passages the Qurʾān explicitly distinguishes between “Those who believe, those who practice Judaism, and the Nazarenes (i.e., the Christians)” (Q al-Baqarah 2:62; Q al-Māʾidah 5:69; Q al-Ḥajj 22:17). It would seem that the Qurʾān really does commend replacement rather than just reformation on the basis of shared narratives. One suspects that in speaking of “reformation” in the present context, a term that readily suggests comparison with a major event in western Christianity of later times, the intention is to highlight the fact of the Qurʾān’s dialogue with Jews and Christians in the milieu of its origins, and to suggest familiarity with Jewish and Christian narratives of shared biblical and non-biblical figures, which the Qurʾān re-configures to fit its own, differing construction of revelatory meaning…

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, 2020. All rights reserved.

Recent Publication—The Qur’an and Late Antiquity: A Shared Heritage by Angelika Neuwirth (Oxford University Press, 2019)

IQSA is excited to share a recent publication from the eminent Qur’an scholar Angelika Neuwirth. Neuwirth’s Der Koran als Text der Spätantike has been translated into English by Samuel Wilder and published under the title The Qur’an and Late Antiquity: A Shared Heritage.


Typical exegesis of the Qur’an treats the text teleologically, as a fait accompli finished text, or as a replica or summary of the Bible in Arabic. Instead Neuwirth approaches the Qur’an as the product of a specific community in the Late Antique Arabian peninsula, one which was exposed to the wider worlds of the Byzantine and Sasanian empires, and to the rich intellectual traditions of rabbinic Judaism, early Christianity, and Gnosticism. A central goal of the book is to eliminate the notion of the Qur’an as being ahistorical. She argues that it is, in fact, highly aware of its place in late antiquity and is capable of yielding valuable historical information. By emphasizing the liturgical function of the Qur’an, Neuwirth allows readers to see the text as an evolving oral tradition within the community before it became collected and codified as a book. This analysis sheds much needed light on the development of the Qur’an’s historical, theological, and political outlook. The book’s final chapters analyze the relationship of the Qur’an to the Bible, to Arabic poetic traditions, and, more generally, to late antique culture and rhetorical forms. By providing a new introduction to the Qur’an, one that uniquely challenges current ideas about its emergence and development, The Qur’an and Late Antiquity bridges the gap between Eastern and Western approaches to this sacred text.

Readers can purchase this book online at Oxford University Press, or find a copy at their institutional or local library.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2020. All rights reserved.


Call for Papers: Syriac and Arabia Symposium (Hugoye Symposium VI)

bethBeth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute is holding its sixth Hugoye symposium on April 24-25, 2020, at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. This year’s topic is Syriac and Arabia. While there has been much on the contribution of Syriac to the Abbasid translation movement, research on the connections between Syriac and Arabic before Islam and during the early years of Islam is in its infancy. This workshop aims to bring together scholars who cross the Syriac studies and Arabic/Islamic studies divide in the hope of forming a framework for the study of the Syriac-Arabic interface. Scholars interested in participating may send via email a proposal between 750 and 1,000 words. Submission deadline is February 29, 2020. Submissions are to be sent via email directly to George A. Kiraz at Scholars are expected to fund their travel to/from and accommodation in Princeton. The Institute will provide meals and a conference celebratory dinner. Speakers will be invited to contribute to a collected volume on an agreed-upon theme.


© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2020. All rights reserved.