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

Introduction to the Study of the Qur'an

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2016/2017
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The objective is to achieve an analytical overview of the Qur’an in terms of its form, content and impact.  In order to achieve this, the course is divided into two main components which are structured around the following sub-headings and integrated themes. 

This course will introduce students to the key text of the Islamic faith and civilization, the foundation of the Muslim community, and the source of Islamic intellectual traditions. On completion of the course, students will gain a firm understanding of the form, content and historical context of Islam’s sacred text. They will see the ways in which Muslim scholars, jurists and community leaders engage with this text in their attempts to devise laws to guide the behaviour of Muslims, to encourage and reinforce them in the understanding and practice of their faith.


This course is taught over 22 weeks with 2 hours contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

The Qur’an: defining Muslim scripture; the historical nexus with the pre-Islamic tradition and the remnants of Abrahamic monotheism; content and characteristics of the sacred text; the function of the Qur’an’s narrative; ethical and legal trajectories in the Qur’an’s discourse; its physical preservation and the manuscript tradition; readings of the text (qira’at).

Classical perceptions of the text and genres of Qur’anic scholarship; classical exegesis in translation; stories of the prophets in the Qur’anic text; chronology of revelation; Western scholarship and the Qur’an: academic models for the treatment of early Islamic sources and the issue of authenticity; towards a theory of Qur’anic hermeneutics: the construct of the Qur’an’s inimitability (I’jaz); aesthetic dimensions of the text. Selected readings from the text of the Qur’an.

This course is core for Year 1 of BA Islamic Studies, and optional for students on the other degrees listed above.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (70%); one essay (2,500 - 3,000 words) to be submitted in week 1, term 2 on the day the course is taught (15%); one essay (2,500 - 3,000 words) to be submitted in week 1, term 3 on the day the course is taught (15%).

Suggested reading

Reference Works
  • Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an, Jane McAuliffe, ed. (Leiden : E.J. Brill, 2001. 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2006). (A-D), (E-I), (J-O), (P-Sh), (T-Z), and (Index).
  • Ambros, Arne Amadeus. A Concise Dictionary of Koranic Arabic, (Wiesbaden : Reichert, 2004).
  • Arberry, Arthur, The Koran Interpreted (London: George Allen Urwin, 1980)
  • Cook, Michael, The Koran, A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
  • Graham, William. Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
  • Gwynne, Rosalind Ward. Logic, Rhetoric and Legal Reasoning in the Qur'an: God’s Arguments (New York : RoutledgeCurzon, 2004).
  • Haleem, Abdel. The Qur’an: A New Translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • Haleem, Abdel. Understanding the Qur’an: Themes and Style (London: I.B. Tauris, 1999).
  • Madigan, Daniel. The Qur’an’s Self-Image (Princeton: Darwin Press, 2003).
  • McAuliffe, Jane Dammen, Qur’anic Christians: an Analysis of Classical and Modern Exegesis (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1991).
  • McAuliffe, Jane Dammen (ed.), With Reverence for the Word: Medieval Scriptural Exegesis in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam/ with edited by Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Barry D. Walfish, and Joseph W. Goering. (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).
  • McAuliffe, Jane Dammen, Cambridge Companion to the Qur’an (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  • Pickthall, Mamaduke. The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (London: Mentor Classics, 1972).
  • Reeves, John. Bible and Qur’an : Essays in Scriptural Intertextuality (Leiden, Boston: E.J. Brill, 2004).
  • Rippin, Andrew (ed.) Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur’an (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).
  • Rippin, Andrew. The Blackwell Companion to the Qur'an (Oxford : Blackwell, 2005).
  • Rippin, Andrew (ed.) The Qur’an : Formative Interpretation (Aldershot : Variorum, 1999).
  • Rippin, Andrew (ed.) The Qur’an: Style and Contents (Aldershot : Variorum, 1999).
  • Sells, M. A., Approaching the Qur’an: the Early Revelations. Introduced and Translated. (Ashland (USA): White Cloud Press, 1999).
  • Tottoli, R., Biblical Prophets in the Qur’an and Muslim Literature (Richmond: Curzon, 2002).
  • Turner, Colin. The Qur’an: Critical Concepts (New York, London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004).
  • Versteegh, Kees. Arabic Grammar and Qur’anic Exegesis in Early Islam (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993).
  • Watt, Montgomery, Introduction to the Qur’an, R. Bell’s introduction Revised by Watt, W.M., Islamic Surveys, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1989).
  • Zammit, Martin. A Comparative Lexical Study of Qur’anic Arabic (Leiden: E.J.Brill, 2002).