READ! AN INTRODUCTION TO READING AND INTERPRETING THE QUR’AN
WHEN: Sunday afternoons, March 17, 24, April 7, 14, 21, 28, May 5, 12, 19), 3-5 p.m.
WHERE: Donway Covenant United Church (230 The Donway W, Toronto, ON), near the intersection of Don Mills and Lawrence.
PARKING: plentiful and free
REGISTRATION FEE: $350. Cheques should be made out to the Islamic Institute for Spiritual Formation and sent to 9 Sifton Court, Toronto, ON M2K 1L9. Please email us if you would like to arrange for an alternate form of payment.
SPACE IS LIMITED, AND SO ADVANCE REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. PLEASE EMAIL US ASAP TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT. REGISTRATION WILL BE CONFIRMED UPON RECEIPT OF YOUR PAYMENT.
Please contact Dr. Gianotti directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) for cases of finacial hardship or alternative payment arrangements.
Giving primacy to first-hand experience in reading and interpreting the Qur’ān, this course aspires to initiate students into a process of scriptural reasoning with the Islamic sacred text at the center. In order to achieve this, we will blend traditional methods of scriptural reading and study with more academic approaches, including an exploration of the historical contexts of revelation, hermeneutical approaches (both traditional and contemporary), textual criticism, the relations between Qur’ānic text and community, Qur’ānic text and theology, Qur’ānic text and law, and Qur’ānic text and its sister sacred texts within the Abrahamic family. In keeping with the “Abrahamic spirit” of the course, one traditional study method that will be foundational for this course is borrowed from the rabbinical practice of “chevruta” study partnerships, in which students learn to read closely, critically and probingly with a partner who is there to challenge, question, offer alternative readings, and imagine alternative possibilities as the two comb the text together.
By the end of the course, students will – God willing – have achieved
— a basic familiarity with the Qur’ānic texts studied over the course of the term and a more general awareness of the resonance of these texts with the Hebrew Bible and New Testament;
— a studied appreciation for the range of diverse approaches and interpretations employed by historical and contemporary interpreters
— an appreciation for the theological and legal implications of exegesis, including the social and legal importance of the traditional “Qur’ānic sciences”;
— an awareness of the ways in which social, political, and historical factors influence the ways in which the Qur’ānic text is received and used by the community of believers;
— a general familiarity with some of the most important and useful research tools and books (in English) for the academic study of the Qur’ān.
1. The Qur’ān in an approved English translation
Students are required to purchase an approved English translation of the Qur’ān for use in the course. Some examples of responsible translations are Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Muhammad Asad, Laleh Bakhtiar, Muhammad Abdel Haleem, Ahmad Zaki Hammad, Marmaduke Pickthall, and Thomas Cleary. Of course, there are many more responsible attempts to render the Arabic text into English, and so this list is by no means exhaustive.
2. Esack, Farid. The Qur’an: A User’s Guide (Oneworld, 2005). · ISBN-10: 1851683542 · ISBN-13: 978-1851683543
3. Rahman, Fazlur. Major Themes of the Qur’ān, second edition (University of Chicago Press, 2009). · ISBN-10: 0226702863 · ISBN-13: 978-0226702865
NON-REQUIRED BUT HIGHLY RECOMMENDED TEXTS (in English)
Mattson, Ingrid. The Story of the Qur’an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life (Blackwell, 2007). ISBN-10: 1405122587, ISBN-13: 978-1405122580
McAuliffe, Jane Dammon (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to the Qur’an (Cambridge University Press, 2006). · ISBN-10: 052153934X · ISBN-13: 978-0521539340
Saeed, Abdullah. The Qur’ān: An Introduction (London/ New York: Routlege, 2008). · ISBN-10: 0-415-42125-X (pbk) · ISBN-13: 978-0-415-42125-6 (pbk).
Sells, Michael. Approaching the Qur’ān: The Early Revelations, second edition (White Cloud Press, 2007). · ISBN-10: 1883991692 · ISBN-13: 978-1883991692
Von Denffer, Ahmed. Ulum al-Qur’an: An Introduction to the Qur’anic Sciences (Leicestershire: The Islamic Foundation, 2000).
SAMPLE LECTURE & DISCUSSION TOPICS
Our weekly meetings will include at least an hour of textually-rooted, serious seminar focused on selected Qur’ānic texts, and so there is no way to predict everything that will come up and seize out attention in the course. that said, the following subjects will be systematically explored in the lecture portion of our weekly meetings:
An Introduction to the “Arabic Recitation,” the Pre-Islamic Arabian context for the advent of the Qur’ān;
a typology of Qur’ānic study; what the Qur’ān means to Muslims; a brief sketch of the Prophet’s biography and the early (Meccan) themes of Qur’ānic revelations; The Qur’ānic concept of human nature
The unique organization of the Qur’ān; the “signs” (āyāt) and the surahs; Meccan & Medinan recitations; other groupings and divisions; the Qur’ān and historical context – the science of “the occasions of revelation” as an attempt to rejoin specific Qur’ānic revelations to their original contexts; the literary styles of the Qur’ān and its traditional claim of “inimitability” (i‘jāz)
The textual history of the Qur’ān; early theological debates over the Qur’ān’s status (created vs uncreated) and the emerging doctrine of the uncreated Qur’ān
A typology of Qur’ānic exegesis (al-tafsīr); al-ta’wīl (allegorical interpretation) vs al-tafsīr (basic explanation of the meanings of the text or literal interpretation); what the Qur’ānic story of Joseph has to say about the visible and invisible worlds…
The Medinan recitations and their social, political, environmental, and spiritual implications; the question of religious diversity; The Qur’ānic conceptualization of religiously sanctioned fighting and the “end” (telos) or purpose of such religiously-regulated use of force; the Qur’ān and peacemaking; a comparative look at war and martial imagery within the “Abrahamic” religious traditions.