New Book: Islamic Cultures, Islamic Contexts

Islamic Cultures Islamic Contexts_coverReaders interested in the social and intellectual history of Islamic civilization will find an exciting array of studies in Islamic Cultures, Islamic Contexts: Essays in Honor of Professor Patricia Crone (Brill, 2014). This volume brings together articles on various aspects of Islamic societies and the intellectual traditions and social contexts that contributed to their formation and evolution. Written by leading scholars who span three generations and who cover such diverse fields as Late Antique Studies, Islamic Studies, Classics, and Jewish Studies, the volume is a testament to the breadth and sustained, deep impact of the scholarship of its honoree, Patricia Crone. While researchers in Qur’anic studies may be initially drawn to articles on “intra-qur’anic parallels” (Witztum) and “Jewish Christianity and Islamic origins” (Stroumsa), the entire volume promises to stimulate critical reflections on theory and method in the study of texts and their cultural contexts, and to help situate such reflections from a Qur’anic-studies perspective in broader scholarly discourses on Islamic civilization.

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

New Book: Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation

by Raymond Farrin*

Farrin_SQI_book coverStructure and Qur’anic Interpretation: A Study of Symmetry and Coherence in Islam’s Holy Text (Ashland, OR: White Cloud, 2014) is a groundbreaking literary approach to the Qur’an that draws on classical Arab sources and contemporary literary theory. Farrin demonstrates how the Qur’an, often regarded as unsystematic, in fact features a comprehensive design, one characterized by a network of symmetries. He asserts that the Qur’an possesses “a magnificent design” and an impressive coherence. Specifically, Farrin’s analysis of the Qur’an discloses how the principle of symmetry—manifesting in parallel, chiastic, and concentric constructions—holds the text together.

This principle of symmetry obtains on the level of the chapter, the chapter pair, the chapter group, the group system (each system containing numerous chapter groups), and the Qur’an as a whole. Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation, aimed both at readers familiar with the Qur’an and at those opening it for the first time, differs from other books on the Qur’an in that it reveals the text’s fundamental, symmetrical organization. Moreover, through readings of key Qur’an chapters, Farrin shows how structure serves as a guide to interpretation. Indeed, one finds that the Qur’an’s structure again and again points to universal messages of an ethical nature, rather than to messages whose application may be limited to a specific context. In addition, the book makes a contribution to Qur’anic studies by highlighting literary evidence indicating that the Qur’an was compiled by one author (in all probability, the Prophet Muhammad) and not by an official committee.

* Raymond Farrin is associate professor of Arabic and chair of the Department of Arabic and Foreign Languages at American University of Kuwait.

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