(Offered as RELI 285, ASLC 285 and ENGL 301) Islam is a religion with over one billion adherents across the globe. The Qur'an and Prophetic Traditions inform Muslim belief, socio-religious practices and rituals. They are the foundation of Islamic law and ethics; the main inspiration behind Islamic mysticism and arts; and motivations for Islamic piety. The Qur'an has served as a model for theories of the Islamic state, fundamentalism and ideology. As one of the most widely read and recited books in the history of humankind, it has given rise to a tradition of interpretation that spans well over a thousand years and encompasses commentaries composed in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Malay, Javanese, and Swahili. We will study the Qur'an’s thought world, including its major ideas, themes and symbols; the Qur'an’s literary style and structure; the Qur'an’s engagement with Jewish and Christian traditions; the historical process through which the Qur'an became the first Arabic book; the process through which it became a scripture vested with authority; and the divergent ways that Muslims have venerated and interpreted the Qur'an. We will focus on several salient questions: How did Muslims try to explain the seemingly contradictory material within the Qur'an? How did they try to explain the Qur'an’s proclamation that it is of supernatural origin? What methods of reasoning, literary devices, and sources of religious authority did Muslims invoke in order to fulfill the need for scriptural interpretation? How does the Qur'an conceive of itself as a scripture and of revelation? How does it engage with and respond to earlier scriptures such as the Bible?
Spring semester. Professor Jaffer.