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 Topic: Qur'anic studies today

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  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10920 - April 12, 2023, 09:58 PM
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10921 - May 13, 2023, 07:23 PM

    Guillaume Dye - A Response to Stephen L. Young, “Let’s Take the Text Seriously”: the Protectionist Doxa in Mainstream New Testament Studies
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10922 - May 23, 2023, 05:09 PM
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10923 - May 29, 2023, 07:10 PM

    Reddit Q&A with Sean Anthony
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10924 - June 14, 2023, 03:28 PM

    Benjamin Suchard - What can Nabataean Aramaic tell us about Pre-Islamic Arabic?
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10925 - June 16, 2023, 09:39 AM

    A conversation with Valentina Grasso (Bard College) on Arabia before Islam. This used to be known primarily from preserved Arabic poetry, but the picture is now filling in from inscriptions and contemporary texts. There were competing kingdoms, tribal coalitions, and foreign empires with a stake in trade routes. There were pagans, Jews, and Christians, as well as generic or "cautious" monotheists. The cultural background of the Koran has never been known in such richness and complexity. The conversation is based on Valentina's recent book, Pre-Islamic Arabia: Societies, Politics, Cults, and Identities during Late Antiquity (Cambridge 2023).

  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10926 - June 18, 2023, 08:39 AM

    Julien Decharneux - Creation and Contemplation: The Cosmology of the Qur'ān and Its Late Antique Background
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10927 - June 27, 2023, 06:37 PM

    Gabriel Said Reynolds
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10928 - June 27, 2023, 07:47 PM
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10929 - June 29, 2023, 08:23 AM

    Nathaniel Miller - A Reconstruction of the Meaning of Isrāʾ in Qur’an 17:1āʾ_in_Qur_an_17_1

    I'm happy to announce that my first book, The Emergence of Arabic Poetry: From Regional Identities to Islamic Canonization, is now starting production at the University of Pennsylvania Press, to appear around mid-2024

    The book is a revision of my dissertation about the Hudhayl tribe's poetry. This Hijazi tribe's 4600 lines of verse date to 550-750 CE and deal with nomadic love, conflict, the hajj, hunting, and the coming of Islam.

    I argue that this corpus sheds a great deal of light on "classical" Arabic poetry which, if you think about it, almost all comes from Najd.

    The emblematic issue is the famous Arabian horsemanship. In contrast to horse-centered hunting and combat descriptions, Hudhayl boast about hunting and fighting on foot. They even _boast_ about being able to run away from a losing fight quickly! Smart.

    In a sense, the Hijazi poetry of Hudhayl is marginal and peripheral compared to what was later canonized as typical Arabic poetry. Except that they are from the homeland of Islam.

    This is why I also argue that the understanding of the Qur'an and early Islamic history needs to recognize that "pre-Islamic" poetry varied from region to region.

    Hence the subtitle, From Regional Identities to Islamic Canonization. Scholars are familiar with the canonized version of early poetry that lumps all (nomadic) Arabs together. But there is much more to say about the local ecologies, economies, and cultures of pre-Islamic Arabia.

    Poetry has a great deal to tell us about these regional cultures. Expect to be bombarded with threads on interesting and unexpected early poetic topics as the publication date draws closer

    Nathaniel Miller's dissertation:
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10930 - June 29, 2023, 08:26 AM

    Nathaniel Miller - Warrior Elites on the Verge of Islam: Between Court and Tribe in Early Arabic Poetry
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10931 - June 29, 2023, 09:15 AM

    Abstract of an article by Thomas Eich in German:
    There are strong parallels between the popular description of Muḥammad’s first revelation in the Sīra of Ibn Isḥāq and a depiction of a seventh-century Northumbrian monk Cædmon in the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum by Bede Venerabilis. There has been some debate about whether these parallels are more or less coincidental, but very good arguments for a relation between the two texts have been put forward. This article adds to this line of research by providing a concrete model of how a Middle Eastern Vorlage might have traveled to Bede Venerabilis. It is argued that the archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus (d. 690), played a key role in this transfer. His biography puts into focus the transposition of Greek-Palestinian and -Egyptian monk congregations including relics and texts to Italy and especially Rome during the seventh century. The relevance of the surviving texts from the school of Canterbury for the study of seventh-century Middle Eastern history is then further illustrated with a version of the so-called legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesos recorded in Theodore’s biblical exegesis. Theodore’s specific version of that legend overlaps significantly with the version contained in the Qurʾān in Sura 18 (al-Kahf, “The cave”). It has always been clear that Sūrat al-Kahf refers to the Christian Seven Sleepers legend. However, since all other hitherto known versions of the story differed significantly from the Qurʾān version, the connection between the versions was usually imagined within a model of “oral transmission.” The version recorded from Theodore’s seventh century teaching sessions now allow us to draw a more nuanced picture in which this specific version of the legend can be situated in seventh-century Palestine. Possibly it was linked to the veneration of Lot in that region, drawing a parallel between Lot’s wife, who had supposedly been transformed into a pillar of salt, but was apparently thought to not have died, and the unnaturally long sleep of the Seven Sleepers over centuries.

  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10932 - June 29, 2023, 09:21 AM

    Hagit Nol - Early Mosques that have Never Been (Found): Literary Sources Versus Physical Remains
    Mosques  are  one  main  type  of  evidence  to  represent  early  Islam  in  the  archaeological record. Dating mosques is crucial for pinpointing the earliest presence of the Muslim faith in a region and to test certain historical narratives known from  the  literary  sources.  Scholars,  however,  sometimes  date  medieval  mosques  in  excavations  and  surveys  relying  on  literary  sources.  Following  these  texts  has  led to dating several mosque remains to the seventh or eighth century. In contrast, archaeologically independent dating tools support only later or indefinite dates for these  ancient  structures.  This  article  presents  four  sites  that  consist  of  a  mosque  each of which has been dated to the seventh or eighth century: Fusṭāṭ, Jerusalem, Wāsiṭ, and Ramla. Through these case studies, supplemented by similar examples, I  demonstrate  the  gap  between  the  literary  sources  and  the  material  evidence.  Interpreting  relevant  epigraphical  data,  as  well  as  excavation  results  from  many  more sites, suggests that the spread of mosques beyond the Arabian Peninsula and Greater  Syria  occurred  only  in  the  ninth  century.  The  literary  sources,  therefore,  cannot be read at face value and can certainly not form the basis for interpreting and dating physical remains.

  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10933 - July 13, 2023, 05:36 AM
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10934 - July 13, 2023, 12:30 PM

    yaa.. yes.... yessss..  let us hide the dirt under the flying carpet and start Islam from Agha Khans  Islam of 20th century.,  NOT EVEN  FROM AGHA KHAN ORIGINS but from French  Agha Khans 0f 19th century.,

       what the hell is that Agha Khan Wood talking about ??   and why is that young lady just there nodding her head??  I would suggest Phillip Wood to do research on "Agha Khans and their origins" instead of origins of Islam

    Do not let silence become your legacy.. Question everything   
    I renounced my faith to become a kafir, 
    the beloved betrayed me and turned in to  a Muslim
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10935 - July 15, 2023, 08:43 PM

    Richard Carrier - Did Muhammad Exist?
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10936 - July 17, 2023, 10:31 AM
    In this episode of It's Useful to Know, Dr. Jack Tannous speaks about the understudied religious experience of "simple believers” in the medieval Middle East, most of whom were illiterate. While elite Christians and Muslims focused on reading and writing texts, simple believers experienced religion through their senses and community. Studying their religious experience, Dr. Tannous shows, helps us understand how fluid religious boundaries could be in this period.

  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10937 - July 20, 2023, 07:27 PM

    Stephen Shoemaker - Early Islamic Imperialism and Colonialism: Some Preliminary Thoughts with Particular Reference to Palestine
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10938 - July 20, 2023, 09:05 PM

    The Study of Islamic Origins: New Perspectives and Contexts (edited by: Mette Bjerregaard Mortensen, Guillaume Dye, Isaac W. Oliver and Tommaso Tesei)
    The study of Islam’s origins from a rigorous historical and social science perspective is still wanting. At the same time, a renewed attention is being paid to the very plausible pre-canonical redactional and editorial stages of the Qur'an, a book whose core many contemporary scholars agree to be formed by various independent writings in which encrypted passages from the OT Pseudepigrapha, the NT Apocrypha, and other ancient writings of Jewish, Christian, and Manichaean provenance may be found. Likewise, the earliest Islamic community is presently regarded by many scholars as a somewhat undetermined monotheistic group that evolved from an original Jewish-Christian milieu into a distinct Muslim group perhaps much later than commonly assumed and in a rather unclear way. The following volume gathers select studies that were originally shared at the Early Islamic Studies Seminar. These studies aim at exploring afresh the dawn and early history of Islam with the tools of biblical criticism as well as the approaches set forth in the study of Second Temple Judaism, Christian, and Rabbinic origins, thereby contributing to the renewed, interdisciplinary study of formative Islam as part and parcel of the complex processes of religious identity formation during Late Antiquity.

  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10939 - July 25, 2023, 09:58 AM

    New Books Network podcast:
    In Stories between Christianity and Islam: Saints, Memory, and Cultural Exchange in Late Antiquity and Beyond (University of California Press, 2022), Reyhan Durmaz offers an original and nuanced understanding of Christian–Muslim relations that shifts focus from discussions of superiority, conflict, and appropriation to the living world of connectivity and creativity. Durmaz uses stories of saints to demonstrate and analyze the mutually constitutive relationship between Christianity and Islam in the Middle Ages.

  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10940 - July 29, 2023, 06:44 AM

    Stephen Shoemaker - Radiocarbon Dating of the Qur’an. Has It Solved the Problem?
    Bart invited me to make another post or two about studying the origins of the Qur’an from a historical-critical perspective, and right off the bat I knew that I needed to write something about attempts to radiocarbon date early Qur’anic manuscripts. It turns out that over the last ten years this topic has become the 800-pound gorilla in the room (to mix metaphors), and much like an actual 800-pound gorilla in any room, it has become a huge distraction and a hindrance to clear thinking. To borrow another trite metaphor, many scholars have invoked the radiocarbon analyses of certain early manuscripts as if these were a kind of silver bullet capable of bringing an end to all further discussion about the Qur’an’s origins. With the evidence of “science” now firmly in hand, the conversation is over, they maintain, and abracadabra, the Qur’an’s early history is, as it turns out, exactly what the Islamic tradition says it is.

    Nevertheless, the problem is that most scholars who are eager to impose such scientific closure on this thorny and contested topic do not appear to understand fully the subtleties and limitations of the method in question. In the interests of brevity, I will not explain in detail how this method of radiocarbon analysis works, although interested readers may consult the third chapter of my Creating the Qur’an, where I explain the process, its basis, and its limitations in clear and basic terms. There too I address in a much more sophisticated manner the various points that I make in this post, as well as identifying even deeper problems with the ways that radiocarbon dating has been used in Qur’anic studies.

    Radiocarbon dating is of course a remarkable tool for the historian when used properly, but in our case, it turns out to be more of a chainsaw than a chisel, when the latter is what we need. For instance, if one needs to date an object broadly, say to determine whether it was manufactured in either late antiquity or the late Middle Ages, then radiocarbon dating is your best friend. With this sort of range in view, its results are clear and decisive. So, for instance, when scholars used this method to date the Shroud of Turin, the results definitively identified this object as a medieval, rather than ancient, fabrication. Within a range of centuries, then, radiocarbon dating is rock solid.

    The problem in our case, however, is that debates around the formation of the Qur’an hinge on a matter of a couple of decades, rather than centuries. There can be little question that the Qur’an as we now have it had come into existence by the early eighth century, which radiocarbon dating solidly confirms. Yet the more pressing question is whether the Qur’an’s definitive, canonical form was established by around 650, or 670, or 690. Such precision is more than radiocarbon dating can provide, as any archaeologist or historian familiar with this method will acknowledge. It is a lesson that scholars of biblical studies, and the Dead Sea Scrolls in particular, learned decades ago, and even still New Testament scholars struggle to identify the dates of the earliest fragments of the gospels and Paul’s letters. But back to the Qur’an.

    In recent years samples were taken from several early Qur’anic manuscripts in order to determine the date of their production using radiometric analysis. Some of the initial results appeared to align very favorably with the canonical account of the Qur’an’s origins (which I outlined in my previous post), quickly creating a sense among more traditional scholars that at last science had proven the “skeptics” wrong. The first efforts to date a Qur’anic manuscript using this method involved a single folio that was stolen from Yemen and now is in the possession of Stanford University. Although these initial results were published in a scholarly journal, soon thereafter radiocarbon datings of early Qur’anic manuscripts in Birmingham, England and Tübingen were announced on library websites, only without full publication and analysis of the data. Encouraged by online articles breathlessly heralding discovery of “the oldest Qur’an,” social media (and Twitter especially) quickly declared that the matter of the Qur’an’s origins had been decided. Science had proven the veracity of the traditional Islamic account of the Qur’an’s formation, a verdict pronounced via Twitter threads rather than through the careful argument and evidence of a scholarly publication. Science had spoken, and science was infallible.

    Of course, any good scientist will tell you that scientific data must always, just like any other evidence, be carefully interpreted, and while scientific measurement can be decisive in some instances, in others, the investigator is confronted with significant ambiguity. Within a range of centuries, radiocarbon data is decisive. But beyond this broad scope, more precision requires greater interpretation of the radiometric data. And once we begin to reach for individual decades, the data can longer be meaningfully interpreted. Ironically, in applying this method of dating to early Qur’anic manuscripts, scholars have seemingly created more problems than they have been able to solve. For example, some folios returned dates indicating that the manuscript in question was a hundred years or more earlier than Muhammad himself!

    In other instances, a single page was analyzed independently by as many as four different labs. One would expect that if this method were accurate and reliable, the results would be consistent, regardless of where the analysis was done. But instead, the results were often all over the place: a folio dated to 611-660 by one lab was determined by another to date sometime between 433-599; another folio dated 590-660 by one lab was dated by another to 388-535. Now, these results are rather decisive if one wants to know whether the object in question is ancient or medieval. Yet given such widely varying datings of the same object, one obviously cannot seek to pinpoint a particular decade. The data are too skewed, and even by the standards of radiocarbon analysis, these results were more inconsistent than one generally expects from this method. Still, the Qur’anic sages of the Twitterverse were unshaken. Clearly – they proclaimed with neither evidence nor argument – the labs that returned the data that they didn’t like simply had botched the job (I am not making this up).

    Eventually, some scholars instead began to take the scientific data seriously and to ask whether, for whatever reason, something was not working quite right with the radiocarbon dating of objects from the early medieval Near East. And so, they turned to early manuscripts whose dates were already well established, through scribal notes or the like, and had them dated using radiocarbon analysis. In each instance, the date that was returned was significantly off, by as much as a century in some cases, further calling into question the use of this method for dating early Qur’anic manuscripts within more than a century or two. Of course, these problems do not mean that radiocarbon dating is worthless or does not work. Far from it. Yet it does remind us that we must respect the method’s limitations. We cannot ask it to do more than it is capable of and must likewise allow for its constraints.

    Even so, something still seems to be significantly off in our efforts to date manuscripts from this era using radiocarbon analysis. Presumably there are some underlying errors in the framework that we use to analyze the raw data obtained from these objects. Such inaccuracies in interpretation have been relatively common in the history of radiocarbon dating, and as the discipline has progressed, these have regularly been corrected. Presently we stand at a moment where significant correction is seemingly needed for dating objects from the early medieval Near East. The good news, however, is that scientists who specialize in this kind of analysis are aware of the constant need for such adjustments, and already new avenues are being pursued that will potentially yield more consistent results in seeking to date early Islamic artifacts. Yet even once such refinements are in place, it remains extremely unlikely that radiocarbon dating alone will fully resolve the mystery of the Qur’an’s origins, and historical-critical investigation of the text itself will remain the most vital set of tools for this endeavor.

  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10941 - July 29, 2023, 06:55 AM

    Stephen Shoemaker - Problems in the critical study of early Islam, or why there is no Bart Ehrman of the Qur’an.
    I am a former student of Bart – much longer ago than either of us would care to admit. My training (at Duke actually) was originally in early Christian studies, and I continue to be active in that field, but I’ve also done a lot of work studying the beginnings of Islam. In my publications on the origins of Islam, I borrow the historical-critical approach that we routinely use in the study of early Christianity – which is undoubtedly well known to members of this blog – and apply it to similar problems and questions that arise from the early Islamic tradition.

    As many of you may be aware, such approaches to the beginnings of Islam are very rare, almost to the point of being non-existent. Bart tells me that he regularly hears from subscribers to this blog that they want to read something on the origins of the Qur’an and Islam like his books on the New Testament and early Christianity. But the truth is, there is really nothing comparable out there, and in this blog post I’d like to talk a little bit about why.

    The simplest explanation is that the study of Islamic origins remains stalled at the point where early Christian studies stood more or less at the middle of the nineteenth century. Why it remains stalled there is a more complicated matter that we can’t get into here. But the result is that scholars of the Qur’an have been extremely reluctant to adopt the critical approaches, and particularly the methodological skepticism, that have characterized the study of earliest Christianity since the middle of the nineteenth century. Instead, they still rely very heavily on the historical framework of the Islamic tradition itself to guide their studies. It is as if, in early Christian studies, one still allowed Eusebius to set the terms of our investigation of Christian origins.

    To be fair, scholars of early Islam have not been entirely unwilling to subject certain aspects of the traditional narratives of Islamic origins to historical criticism. But when it comes to the most important points regarding the historical Muhammad and the formation of the Qur’an, fundamental deference to the tradition remains paramount. For instance, the Islamic tradition maintains that the Qur’an was established – in exactly the same format and wording that we have it today – by the middle of the seventh century. And so when the overwhelming majority of scholars set out to study the Qur’an, they do so with confidence that its contents were fixed within twenty years of Muhammad’s death. The result is that most western scholarship on the Qur’an serves to reinscribe, rather than challenge, the traditional Islamic narrative of the Qur’an’s formation. Acceptance of this viewpoint limits both the questions that may be asked and how they will be answered, resulting in a scholarly cocoon that protects – whether intentionally or not – the views of the Islamic tradition.

    Collective confidence in this received account of the Qur’an’s formation obviously leaves off the table many basic questions that scholars routinely ask about the New Testament writings, not to mention other sacred texts. In effect, one is not allowed to probe the history of the Qur’anic traditions and their development. These traditions were recorded soon after Muhammad’s death, by those who had followed him and under careful state supervision, thereby ensuring their accuracy. Accordingly, there is no possibility for form critical analysis of individual traditions or investigations of redactional development within the Qur’anic text. What we find in the Qur’an, scholars regularly assume and assert, is in fact what Muhammad actually taught, thereby obviating the complicated questions that constantly vex (and delight) biblical scholars.

    This conviction that the Qur’an indeed preserves the very words of Muhammad himself is perhaps the strangest presumption of Qur’anic studies as practiced in the modern west, particularly when compared with biblical studies. Qur’anic scholars regularly insist that the words found in the Qur’an today are the exact words spoken by Muhammad to his followers in Mecca and Medina during the early seventh century. It is truly astonishing, I think, that so many ostensibly critical, non-Muslim scholars would stalwartly profess the authenticity of the Qur’an as more or less a simple transcript of what Muhammad taught. As readers of Bart’s many works, you will all know that this is of course an impossibility, absent dictation or a miracle, both of which are highly unlikely.

    Western scholars of the Qur’an also accept as fundamental to their investigations the Islamic tradition’s chronological schema of the Qur’an’s serial revelation to Muhammad, with only some minor adjustments. According to tradition, Muhammad did not receive the entirety of the Qur’an at once, but its contents were revealed to him piecemeal across a span of two decades. Medieval Muslim scholars therefore established a specific order for these revelations across the span of Muhammad’s career. And so modern scholars, with this dataset in hand (which is presumed to be historically accurate), attempt to trace the development of the Qur’anic text in relation to the progress of Muhammad’s prophetic mission. Frequently (although not always) this chronological reading of the Qur’an is undertaken in conjunction with his traditional biographies, notoriously unreliable texts that were composed more than 100 years after Muhammad’s death. It is as if, by comparison, one were to use the Acts of Paul and Thecla as an interpretive key for understanding the letters of Paul!

    Related to this principle of Qur’anic studies is a parallel conviction that everything in the Qur’an had its origin in Muhammad’s prophetic career in Mecca and Medina between 610-632. Any possibility some part of the Qur’an might be a later interpolation after Muhammad’s life is for the most part strictly excluded. Yet even with a window of only around twenty years between Muhammad’s death and the fixation of the canonical Qur’anic text, as acknowledged even in the traditional account, there is ample opportunity for additions and changes to the text. To be sure, the biblical scholar can only respond to such claims with complete, dumbstruck bewilderment. Nevertheless, specialists on early Islam persist in maintaining that everything in the Qur’an comes from Muhammad, and from Mecca and Medina.

    There are, however, a number of intractable problems with the presumption that all of the Qur’an must derive from the mouth of Muhammad in either Mecca or Medina. In the first place, Mecca in Muhammad’s lifetime was a remote, hardscrabble place in the arid deserts of western Arabia. According to a recent study, the likely number of total inhabitants in Mecca at this time was around five hundred or so, with only around one-hundred and thirty free adult men. Its nonliterate, pastoralist inhabitants appear to have been quite isolated from the broader world of the ancient Mediterranean and Mesopotamia.

    These cultural and economic limitations obviously raise profound questions about the traditional linkage of a text as sophisticated as the Qur’an with a sleepy hamlet such as Muhammad’s Mecca. The Qur’an’s content demands an audience steeped in the traditions of ancient Judaism and Christianity. How would the goatherds of Mecca have possessed the level of religious literacy required to understand the Qur’an’s persistent and elliptic invocations of Jewish and Christian lore? There is, for that matter, no evidence of any significant Christian presence anywhere remotely near Mecca: the closest known community was over 500 miles (900km) distant.

    Clearly there must be more to the Qur’an’s origins than the later Islamic tradition has remembered, since Muhammad’s Mecca (or his Medina for that matter) does not seem capable of having produced such a highly cosmopolitan religious text. Nor does it seem likely that the entirety of the Qur’an may be understood as preserving an accurate transcript of the very words that Muhammad spoke to his followers in Mecca and Medina. Unsurprisingly, once we let go of the restrictive assumptions that modern scholarship on the Qur’an has inherited from the Islamic tradition, the Qur’an quickly emerges as a scriptural tradition with a history no less complex than the Jewish and Christian bibles. And so a great task presently awaits those who are willing and able to meet it: the beginnings of the historical-critical study of the Qur’an.

  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10942 - August 14, 2023, 05:40 AM

    Joseph Witztum - The Syriac Milieu of the Quran: The recasting of Biblical narratives

    An interesting dissertation summary here:

    The Syriac milieu of the Quran: The recasting of Biblical narratives
    Joseph Benzion Witztum

    PhD Dissertation Princeton University 334 (2011)

    This dissertation seeks to contribute to our understanding of the Quran and ultimately to the situating of pre-Islamic Arabia in its Late Antique context. The core argument is that Quranic retellings of Biblical narratives are often much more indebted to the Christian Syriac tradition than scholars have hitherto believed. Although it is frequently presumed that stories from the Hebrew Bible were transmitted to the Quranic milieu by Jews, the evidence examined in this study strongly suggests that this is often not the case. The body of the dissertation consists of four case studies: the fall of Adam, Cain's murder of Abel, Abraham's construction of a sanctuary together with his son, and the entire story of Joseph and his travails. A comparison of these four narratives as presented in the Quran to both Jewish and Christian Syriac texts shows that in many respects the Quran is markedly closer to the Syriac tradition. The similarities fall under four headings: motifs, diction, literary form, and typological function. Within the Syriac tradition the sources which tend to present the most parallels are verse homilies and hymns. These were performed publicly and served to instruct a wide population. These literary genres were thus ideal channels of transmission for Biblical traditions to the Quranic milieu. There are several advantages to reading the Quran from the perspective of the Syriac tradition. On an interpretive level, which is the focus of this dissertation, light can be shed on many details which previously were considered errors or innovations on the part of the Quran, but now may be shown to reflect developments found in the Syriac sources. The study of the Syriac background also allows us to appreciate more fully the ways in which the Quran adapts earlier traditions. On a historical level, it furthers our comprehension of an area and era concerning which there is a dearth of contemporary evidence.

  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10943 - August 14, 2023, 05:58 AM

    Stephen Shoemaker - Creating the Qur’an: The Formation of the Last Ancient Scripture
    Hi again. Welcome to my final post, and I’d like to thank Bart for the opportunity to engage this lively forum and also all of its members for reading and considering my thoughts. In my two previous posts, you will recall, I noted some significant problems with prevailing understandings of how the Qur’an as we now have it came into existence. In my first post, I noted the rather uncritical manner in which most scholarship on early Islam has simply accepted the Islamic tradition’s own accounts of the Qur’an’s formation. Such acquiescence to tradition of course marks a sharp contrast with the rigorous skepticism that scholars of the bible and early Christianity (and early Judaism) bring to their respective objects of study and to traditional narratives of origins in particular.

    This deference to traditional perspectives currently marks the sharpest divide between the study of early Islam and the formative histories of other religious traditions. I would also note that, if you look back over many of the comments to my earlier posts, those with the strongest objections tend to base their critiques in references to the authority of traditional Islamic materials – all of which were written much later than the period in question. In my second post, I also explained why radiocarbon dating, despite the enthusiastic hopes of many scholars, cannot solve the problem of the Qur’an’s origins by securing it an early date, leaving open many significant questions about the Qur’an’s early history.

    So far, then, I’ve explained some of the major problems that have hindered critical study of early Islam and the formation of the Qur’an, but what I haven’t done is told you when, where, why, and how I am convinced the Qur’an as we now have it came into being. Therefore, to conclude this trilogy of posts, I thought I would describe how I understand the Qur’an’s formation from a historical-critical, rather than traditional, point of view.

    Where did the Qur’an come from and how did the text come to be in the form that it has come down to us today? If one were to peruse the scholarly literature on the Qur’an from the last century and a half, one would find that the vast majority of scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, follow the (Sunni) Islamic tradition in ascribing the collection of the Qur’an as we have it today to the fourth Caliph (“successor” of Muhammad), Uthman (644-56). Since this particular tradition was included in an early and authoritative collection of Islamic religious traditions (al-Bukhari’s collection of hadith), it became the canonical account of the Qur’an’s formation for Muslims and, by consequence, for most scholars of Islamic studies.

    The truth of the matter, however, is that this is not the only memory of the Qur’an’s origins that one will find in the Islamic historical tradition. Indeed, the Islamic evidence for the Qur’an’s collection and composition is itself a convoluted tangle of traditions. Of course, it is certainly understandable that the Islamic tradition would eventually settle on a particular narrative of the Qur’an’s origins chosen from among these various accounts. Nevertheless, the sheer diversity of information coming from the early Islamic tradition and its complexities regarding the matter of the Qur’an’s production should occasion far less certainty from modern scholars.

    As it turns out, there is also a memory in the Islamic tradition that the canonical version of the Qur’an – the text that has come down to us today – was established in its final form much later: under the Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik, who reigned from the end of the seventh century into the beginning of the eighth (685-705). And judging from all the evidence available to us, if we take a true historical-critical and skeptical approach to the sources in question, this era in fact seems to present the most likely context for the Qur’an’s formation.

    Although the evidence and arguments involved in reaching this conclusion are of course highly complex (as is so often the case: again, see my free book for further details), this tradition holds the most consistency with the full range of our available evidence. For instance, in purely historical terms, caliphal (Islamic) state at the time of Uthman does not seem to have been sufficiently organized that it could have established a stable, canonical Qur’an, as the tradition maintains. Only in the time of ‘Abd al-Malik, do we find evidence of a state apparatus that could actually achieve this. Yet even more importantly, the canonical Qur’an’s establishment under ‘Abd al-Malik is witnessed not only by the early Islamic tradition, but these reports are also confirmed by several non-Islamic sources that are almost contemporary with the events in question. Need I say, multiple independent attestation?

    Nevertheless, let me be clear: I am not suggesting that the Qur’an was created out of whole cloth only at this relatively late point in time. Rather, it was under ‘Abd al-Malik that earlier collections of Islamic sacred traditions, both oral and written, were compiled into the final, canonical version of the Qur’an that we have today. Thus, the collective witness of the Islamic tradition and contemporary non-Islamic sources informs us. This means, that the content of the Qur’an was still in process and undergoing development until it reached this final stage when ‘Abd al-Malik established and imposed – with imperial coercion – the canonical version of the Qur’an. Indeed, through forceful intervention by the state, all versions of the Qur’an that deviated from this new standard were seized and destroyed.

    Accordingly, we need to adopt an understanding of the Qur’an’s formation that envisions its development over a period of several decades, involving oral transmission from memory as well as, one imagines, the production of local written collections to aid with memory. One important consequence of adopting this perspective of the Qur’an is that it is no longer tenable to imagine its contents as having a singular origin in Muhammad’s teaching. Rather, the various components of the Qur’an must instead derive from a range of different historical contexts. These were then brought together by the early Islamic tradition into a single canonical text that was sanctioned as a new scripture for Muhammad’s followers around the close of the seventh century.

    At the same time, I have no doubts whatsoever that many elements of the Qur’an have significant roots in the teaching of Muhammad to his followers in Mecca and Medina. Yet we must recognize that this material has been highly modified in the process of its transmission and has been supplemented significantly with new traditions that his followers encountered after invading and occupying the lands of the Roman and Sassanian Near East. Indeed, we must also bear in mind that as Muhammad’s followers shared their memories of sacred traditions with one another during these early decades, whether orally or in writing, they did so independently in pockets scattered across the vast empire that Muhammad’s followers had conquered and colonized.

    Therefore, to briefly conclude, what we now have in the Qur’an is not in fact the exact words of an early seventh-century Arabian prophet, but a collection made by his early followers over many years after his death. The contents of this corpus were therefore shaped and reshaped by decades of oral (and eventually written) transmission, along with constant adoption and adaptation of new traditions learned from ongoing dialogue with the other religions and cultures of western Asia in late antiquity. In fact, many Qur’anic traditions, as other scholars have already noted, suppose an environmental, or economic, or cultural context that is simply not compatible with the conditions of central Hijaz during the early seventh century. Accordingly, numerous elements of the Qur’an make far better sense if we understand the collection as an evolving product of decades of memory work and oral transmission, much of which took place within the culturally diverse contexts of late ancient Syro-Palestine and Iraq in dialogue with other Abrahamic traditions.

    Only through the direct intervention of the caliph ʿAbd al-Malik did this process finally come to an end around the turn of the eighth century. The result is the Qur’an that we have today: an imperially produced and enforced collection that brought uniformity and order to the diverse and diffuse sacred traditions that were circulating among Muhammad’s followers for decades after his death. And thanks to ʿAbd al-Malik’s highly effective exercise of raw political power, much that we would like to know about the complexity of Qur’an’s prior history remains shrouded in mystery. Accordingly, moving forward in our efforts to understand the Qur’an’s formation we must proceed cautiously and skeptically, guided always by the hermeneutics of suspicion, historical criticism, and the historical study of religions.

  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10944 - August 26, 2023, 03:29 PM


    Robert Hoyland talking about his book, In God’s Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10945 - August 26, 2023, 03:35 PM

    Stephen Shoemaker - The making of Mecca
    Clearly there must be more to the Qur’an’s origins than the later Islamic tradition has remembered, since Muhammad’s Mecca (or his Medina for that matter) simply does not seem capable of having produced such a highly cosmopolitan religious text. In order to understand the Qur’an’s formation, it seems we must look beyond Mecca and Medina, despite what the Islamic tradition tells us.

  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10946 - August 26, 2023, 05:40 PM

    Reddit Q&A with Julien Decharneux
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10947 - August 31, 2023, 06:24 PM
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10948 - August 31, 2023, 06:33 PM

    Open access books...
  • Qur'anic studies today
     Reply #10949 - September 02, 2023, 01:17 PM

    Law Beyond Israel
    "The Hebrew Bible formulates two sets of law: one for the Israelites and one for the gentile “residents” living in the Holy Land."

    "the gentile 'residents' are called 'ger'.
    'Muhajir' is the one who is  'ger' ;  the Hebrew G is J in Arabic.
    Hagar, the mother of Ishmael  is the woman who is  becoming  'ger": she travels from Egypt to Canaan with Abraham and she becomes Jewish: this voyage is, in the same time, a metanoia, a conversion to Judaism, i.e. a voyage from Egyptian paganism to monotheism. Ishmael is circumcised.
    "Hijra" is not a physical migration it is a mental one to be accepted as a 'ger', i.e., as the gentile part of Judaism, like Ha Gar, the 'ger woman'.

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