SOAS University of London

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

Islamic Texts: Language and the Synthesis of Classical Scholarship Part A

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Term 1

This module is principally designed for students with an interest in medieval Islamic thought. Its main purpose is to introduce classical texts and traditions of learning not necessarily covered in the Qur’an and Hadith module. Students read, translate and discuss examples of works from a variety of genres, diverse in form, yet all essentially concerned with the elaboration and transmission of classical Muslim scholarship’s understanding of its faith. Part A of the module focuses on the study of seminal literary texts from the disciplines of classical jurisprudence and theology. With a concern for both context and relevance, the module aims to provide a critical gauging of the conceptual constructs and discussions which featured in legal and theological thought.


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

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  1. Understand the historical form and content of the traditions of learning and modes of scholarship which feature in classical Islamic legal and theological thought
  2. Read, translate and competently analyse selected Arabic texts from the disciplines of classical jurisprudence and theology
  3. Appreciate the written legacy of the medieval Islamic sciences
  4. Engage with the academic discourses and theroretical issues which feature in the analysis and treatment of legal and theological texts


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

The module features the study of selected texts from the following fields:

  1. Classical jurisprudence: standard compilations on substantive law (furu ‘) and the notions of ikhtilaf al-fuqaha'; treatises on the principles of law; linguistic bases of law
  2. Islamic theology: treatises on the precepts of faith and expressions of orthodoxy; and heresiographical literature

Method of assessment

One 3000-word essay (100% of final mark), due on Friday, Week 1, Term 2.

Suggested reading

Basic bibliography:

  • Abdul-Raof, Hussein, Schools of Qur’anic Exegesis. Genesis and Development. London, Routledge, 2010
  • Arberry, A,. The Koran interpreted (London: George Allen Urwin, 1980).
  • Awwa, Salwa Muhammad, Textual Relations in the Qur”An: Relevance, Coherence and Structure. London: Routledge, 2006.
  • 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).
  • Draz, M. A, Introduction to the Qur’an. London: I.B. Tauris, 2000.
  • 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).
  • Lawrence, Bruce, The Qura’n: A Biography. London: Atlantic Books, 2006.
  • McAuliffe, Jane (Ed.), The Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an, Leiden: E.J. Brill.
  • McAuliffe, Jane, Cambridge Companion to the Qur’an. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Rippin, A., Approaches to the history of the interpretation of the Qur'an (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).
  • Robinson, Neal, Discovering the Qur’an: a Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text, London: SCM, 1996.
  • Shah, Mustafa, ed. (2013) Tafsir: Interpreting the Qur'an. Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies. London: Routledge. (Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies, v.4)
  • Versteegh, C. H. M., Arabic grammar and Qur'anic exegesis in early Islam, (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1993).
  • Wansbrough, J., Qur'anic studies: sources and methods of scriptural interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977).
  • Watt, Montgomery, Introduction to the Qur’an, R. Bell’s introduction Revised by Watt, W.M., Islamic Surveys. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997.

Hadith Literature:

  • Abbott, Nabia, ‘hadith Literature II: ‘Collection and Transmission of Hadith’, (1983). pp. 289–98.
  • Abdul Rauf, Muhammad. ‘hadith Literature-II: The Development of the Science of Hadith’, in A. F. L. Beeston, T. M. Johnstone, R. B. Serjeant, and G. R. Smith (eds), Arabic Literature to the End of the Umayyad Period (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 271–88;
  • Azami, Mustafa, Studies in Early Hadith Literature: with a Critical Edition of Some Early Texts (3rd edn) (Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1992).
  • Azami, Mustafa, Studies in Hadith Methodology and Literature (Indianapolis: American Trust Publication, 1977).
  • Brown, Jonathan, BROWN, J. A. C. Hadith: Muhammad's Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World. Oneworld Publications. (2018).
  • 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).
  • Lucas, Scott, Constructive Critics, Hadith Literature, and the introduction 32 TH_Vol1 Page 32 Articulation of Sunni Islam (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2004).
  • Motzki, Harald (ed.), Hadith: Origins and Development (Aldershot: Variorum, 2004).
  • Shah, Mustafa, (ed.), (2009) The Hadith: Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies. London: Routledge. (Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies).
  • 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).


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