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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Quran and hadith Studies

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 4 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Full Year

The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to the two principal textual sources of the Islamic tradition: The Qur'an and the Hadith, taking into account the rather subtle interplay between these sources. It covers their structure, content and style, their status relative to one another and their function in Muslim religious and social life.


Given that this is essentially a text-based course, it is expected that students should be able to read and comprehend classical Arabic material.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course students will have developed a distinct understanding of the historical and conceptual significance of the earliest Islamic scriptural sources: namely the Qur’an and Hadith and the role they play in the synthesis of Islamic faith and practice. Furthermore, s/he will also have obtained not only a firm grasp of the linguistic and structural features of the associated classical literature which developed around these sources but also the theoretical contexts which defined approaches to scripture and the academic frameworks within which these are gauged.


Two hours each week are devoted to the examination and translation of primary source material. Students are expected to prepare the set texts in advance of lectures; moreover, it is also expected that students present at least one seminar relating to topics covered during the course of the lectures.

Scope and syllabus

The first part of the course examines the earliest forms of Qur'anic scholarship engendered by the need to codify, preserve and elucidate the holy text. The Qur'an is explored in terms of aspects of its contents, style and structure. Students also review features of the development of the exegetical tradition and issues in Qur'anic hermeneutics, comparing and contrasting passages from a number of classical tafsir texts. There is also opportunity to assess the significance of the role of readers (qurra') and the whole reading tradition (qira'at). 

The second part of this course focuses on the study of the development of Hadith literature. Students examine selected texts from the canonical collection of traditions together with commentaries, which scrutinize traditions from theological, legal and linguistic perspectives. This also includes a review of the classical introductions to the science of the study of traditions and the careful attempts to authenticate the stock of Hadith literature.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May-June (80%); one essay of 2,500 words to be submitted on day 1, term 2 (10%); one essay of 2,500 words to be submitted on day 1, term 3 (10%).

Suggested reading

Basic bibliography:
  • Abbott, N., Studies in Arabic literary papyri II, Qur'anic commentary and tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1967). 
    • See also Studies in Arabic Literary papyri III, language and literature (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1972). 
  • Arberry, A,. The Koran interpreted (London: George Allen Urwin, 1980). 
  • Bell, R., Introduction to the Qur'an, revised by Watt, W. M., Islamic Surveys (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997). 
  • Berg, H., The Development of exegesis in early Islam: the authenticity of Muslim literature from the formative period (London: Curzon Press, 2000). 
  • Boullata, I. J., Literary structures of religious meaning in the Qur'an (London: Curzon Press, 2000). 
  • Burton, J., The Collection of the Qur'an (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977). 
  • Haleem, M. A., Understanding the Qur'an: themes and style (London: I. B. Tauris, 1999). 
  • Hawting, G., Sharif, A., Approaches to the Qur'an (London: Routledge, 1993). 
  • Imam, A. A., The variant readings of the Quran (Virginia: International Institute of Islamic Thought: 1998). 
  • Kinberg, Naphtali Studies in the linguistic structure of classical Arabic, edited by Leah Kinberg and Kees Versteegh. (Leiden: Brill, 2001). 
  • Rippin, A., Approaches to the history of the interpretation of the Qur'an (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988). 
  • Versteegh, C. H. M., Arabic grammar and Qur'anic exegesis in early Islam, (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1993).
    • The Arabic language (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997). 
  • Wansbrough, J., Qur'anic studies: sources and methods of scriptural interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977).

Hadith Literature: 

  • Azami, M., Studies in early Hadith literature (Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1978). 
  • Burton, J., Introduction to the tradition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000). 
  • Guillaume, A., The Traditions of Islam (Beirut: Khayyat, 1961). 
  • Juynboll, G. H. A., Muslim tradition: studies in chronology, provenance and authorship of early Hadith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). 
  • Schacht, J., The Origins of Muhammadan jurisprudence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950). 
  • Siddiqi, M .Z., Hadith literature: its origin, development, special features and criticism (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1993).