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

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1 or Year 2
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

This module is principally designed for students with an interest in medieval Islamic literature.

Its main purpose is to introduce classical texts and traditions of learning not necessarily covered in the Qur’an and Hadith modules. Students read, translate and discuss examples of works from a variety of genres, diverse in form, yet all essentially concerned with the transmission of classical Muslim scholarship’s traditions of learning.

Part B of the module focuses on the study of seminal literary texts from the disciplines of medieval Arabic linguistic thought and forms of classical exegesis. With a concern for both context and relevance, the module aims to provide a critical gauging of the conceptual constructs and intellectual forces which profoundly shaped medieval Islamic literature.


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 Arabic linguistic thought and the traditions of tafsir
  2. Read, translate and competently analyse selected Arabic texts from the disciplines of Arabic linguistic thought and exegesis
  3. Appreciate the written legacy of the medieval Islamic sciences
  4. Engage with the current academic discourses and theoretical issues which feature in the analysis and treatment of linguistic and exegetical texts


This module is taught over 10 weeks with 2 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

Course readings and discussions are guided by, but not exhaustive of, or exclusive to, the following major themes and topics:

  • Arabic linguistic thought: Early grammatical treatises; Arabic lexicography; Philological concepts; Applied aspects of language
  • Classical tafsir tradition: Early exegetical literature; Classical Qur'anic commentaries; Hermeneutics

Method of assessment

  • 20% - PowerPoint presentation (10-12 minutes)
  • 80% - Essay (2500 words)
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading


  • Auroux, Sylvain, E. F. K. Koerner, Kees Versteegh, and Hans J. Niederehe, eds. History of the Language Sciences: An International Handbook on the Evolution of the Study of Language from the Beginnings to the Present. Vol. 1. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2000.
  • Baalbaki, Ramzi, ed. The Early Islamic Grammatical Tradition. Aldershot, UK and     
  • Burlington, VT: Ashgate/Variorum, 2007
  • Baalbaki, Ramzi. The Arabic Lexicographical Tradition: From the 2nd/8th to the 12th/18th Century. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2014.
  • Carter, M. G. Sībawayhi. London and New York: I. B. Taurus, 2004.
  • Carter, M. G.. Sībawayhi's Principles: Arabic Grammar and Law in Early Islamic Thought. Atlanta, Georgia: Lockwood Press, 2016.
  • Daniels, Peter T., and William Bright, eds. The World’s Writing Systems. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Gacek, Adam. The Arabic Manuscript Tradition: A Glossary of Technical Terms and Bibliography. Leiden, The Netherlands and Boston: Brill, 2001.
  • Giolfo, Manuela, and C. H. M. Versteegh. The Foundations of Arabic Linguistics IV: The Evolution of Theory. Leiden ; Boston: Brill, 2019.
  • Loop, Jan,  Alastair Hamilton, and Charles Burnett (Eds.) The Teaching and Learning of Arabic in Early Modern Europe, pp. 213–29. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2017.
  • Marogy, Amal. Kitāb Sībawayhi: Syntax and Pragmatics (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2010).
  • Owens, Jonathan. Oxford Handbook of Arabic Linguistics. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Al-Sharkawi, Muhammad.  The Ecology of Arabic : a Study of Arabicization. Leiden: Brill, 2010.
  • Al-Sharkawi, Muhammad. History and Development of the Arabic Language. London: Routledge, 2021.
  • Sheyhatovitch, Beata. The Distinctive Terminology in Sharḥ Al-kāfiya By Raḍī al-Dīn al-Astarābādī. Leiden ; Boston: Brill, 2018.
  • Versteegh, Kees. Landmarks in Linguistic Thought III: The Arabic Linguistic Tradition. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.
  • Versteegh, Kees. The Arabic Language. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001
  • Versteegh, Kees. Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics. Leiden: Brill, 2005. (5 vols.)
  • Versteegh, C. H. M. Arabic Grammar and Qur’ānic Exegesis in Early Islam. Leiden, The Netherlands and New York: E. J. Brill, 1993.
  • Versteegh, , C. H. M. The Explanation of Linguistic Causes: Az-Zağğāğī's Theory of Grammar : Introduction, Translation, Commentary. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1995.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.