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Fragmentation and Compilation : The Making of Religious Texts in Islam A Comparative Perspective II (30 septembre - 1er octobre)

Fragmentation and Compilation : The Making of Religious Texts in Islam A Comparative Perspective II (30 septembre - 1er octobre)

Workshop 
30 September–1 October 2013 
The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London
2nd Floor, Room 2.3

Convenor : ASMA HILALI

This workshop is the sequel to the one organised in 2012, entitled Fragmentation and Compilation : The Making of Religious Texts in Islam. A Comparison with Ancient Mesopotamia, Judaism and Christianity, which focused on the problematic of fragmentation and compilation from a multi-disciplinary perspective, with specialists in Mesopotamian texts, Islam, Judaism and Christianity making contributions. In these workshops, fragmentation and compilation are approached as textual phenomena which cannot be divorced from the objective structure of the text or from its intrinsic argumentative dimension, that is, the specific claims that are either explicitly made by, or implicitly embedded within, the text. Fragmentation and compilation are also viewed as hermeneutical experiences manifested by various techniques of citation, selection and canonisation, in one word : interpretation. The comparative perspective will address more the methodological tools than the specificities of the history of each discipline represented in the workshop.

The second part of the workshop addresses the same problematic of fragmentation and compilation with a more focused view on techniques of citation, repetition, variation selection and canonisation of religious texts in early and classical Islam with an opening perspective on Biblical studies. It is also dedicated to the application of some of the key concepts raised in the first workshop and extends into a multi-disciplinary discussion including the fields of hadith studies and Islamic epigraphy.

The workshop includes participants from various fields, including Prof. Frederic Imbert, an expert on early Islamic epigraphy and the writing of sacred texts on stones, and Dr Holger Zellentin and Dr Mehdi Azaiez, experts in Biblical studies, who will focus on the Qur’anic reception and recasting of Biblical texts. Dr Asma Hilali will look at the concept of Qur’anic variants and Dr Stephen Burge will examine the problematic of fragmentation/compilation within the arba‘un collections of traditions (collections of forty hadith).

Professor Aziz Al-Azmeh, a participant in the first workshop, will be the discussant of the first open session dedicated to the current challenges facing the field of Qur’anic studies. Three select aspects will be covered :

(i) Qur’anic manuscripts : A tool or an aim ?

(ii) Intertextuality : Methodological remarks.

(iii) Fragmentation/compilation perspectives on the Qur’an text in the context of the history of its transmission.

PROGRAMME

Day One : Monday, 30 September, 2013

14:00 Welcome

14:00–16:00 Session 1 : Qur’anic Studies : From a Fragmentary Approach to an Approach about Fragmentation
Discussant : Prof. Aziz al-Azmeh, Central European University, Budapest
Stephen Burge, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Asma Hilali, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Holger Zellentin, The University of Nottingham

This session will examine the state of the field of Qur’anic Studies.

16:00 Break

16:20–17:50 Session 2 : Variation and Repetition in Qur’anic Texts
Chair : Holger Zellentin

Fragmentation and Variation in the First Islamic Graffiti (1st–2nd century AH)
Frédéric Imbert, Aix-Marseille University

Repetitions and Variations, and the Problem of ‘Qur’anic Variants’
Asma Hilali, The Institute of Ismaili Studies

Day Two : Tuesday, 1 October 2013

9:00–11:00 Session 3 : Comparative Perspectives
Chair : Mehdi Azaiez,

Fragmentation, Compilation and Discourse : A Comparison of Three Arba‘un Collections on Jihad and Martyrdom Compiled in the Late Mamluk Period
Stephen Burge, The Institute of Ismaili Studies

The Qur’an’s Fragmentation and Realignment of Gospel and Talmud
Holger Zellentin, The University of Nottingham

Unity and Fragmentation in the Standard Text of the Qur’an : The Prophet as First Addressee and the Dialogic Argumentation
Mehdi Azaiez, Laboratoire d’excellence ‘Religions et Sociétés dans le Monde Méditerranéen’ (Labex RESMED), Paris

11:00-12:00 General Discussion

PAPER ABSTRACTS

Fragmentation and Variation in the First Islamic Graffiti (1st–2nd century AH)

Frédéric Imbert, Aix-Marseille University, France

The latest research in the field of Islamic graffiti in the first two centuries AH in the Middle East is uncovering new information about Muslim society at the dawn of Islam. Most of this information concerns the Islamic faith, the place of the Qur’an and the figure of the Prophet Muhammad, but the oldest graffiti also allow us to reflect on the status of writing during the same period. Thousands of Arabic Kufic graffiti recently discovered in Saudi Arabia and in the wider Middle East reflect an extreme fragmentation due to the quantity of inscriptions scattered all over the area. These Arabic graffiti, which were not subjected to any kind of censorship, are the expression of variation and repetition at the same time : variation of the Qur’anic text and of the attitude of people towards the new religion and the Prophet, and repetition of the religious prayers and invocations. The picture of early Islam emanating from the first Islamic graffiti is one of fragmentation.

Repetitions and Variations, and the Problem of ‘Qur’anic Variants’

Asma Hilali, The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London

The field of Qur’anic Studies has been greatly influenced by the medieval reception of the Qur’an text manifested in the exegetical literature and by the theories related to the ‘Qur’anic variants’. The concept of ‘Qur’anic variants’ is deeply rooted in the history of the canonisation of the Qur’an and in the various assumptions made about scribal errors and falsification. This paper provides a critique of the conceptual tools used in Qur’anic Studies in the last two decades and will propose a new perspective in the study of the textual features interpreted by the medieval and modern scholars as ‘Qur’anic variants’. The new perspective takes the fragmented aspect of the text to be inseparable from the history of its transmission.

Fragmentation, Compilation and Discourse : A Comparison of Three Arba‘un Collections on Jihād and Martyrdom Compiled in the Late Mamluk Period

Stephen Burge, The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London

This paper examines the ways in which hadith scholars went about compiling hadith collections by undertaking a comparative analysis of three similar works written in the same period. The three collections are all arba‘un collections – short collections of around forty hadith – which focus on the themes of jihād and martyrdom. The three studied are Suyuti’s Abwab al-su‘ada’ fi asbab al-shuhada’ (‘The Gates of the Lucky in the Occasions of Martyrdom’) and his Arba‘un hadithan fi fadl al-jihad (‘Forty Hadith on the Merits of Jihad’) and al-Biqa‘i’s Dhayl al-istishhad bi-ayat al-jihad (‘The Appendix to Martyrdom in the Verses on Jihad ’). I will argue that by closely analysing the material included and excluded from a hadith collection, as well as the ways in which the hadith have been arranged, it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of particular nuances within a text in which a compiler does not give his views openly to his reader. This paper argues that the ‘hadith literature’ contains a vast, almost infinite, body of texts and the job of the hadith compiler is to fragment this wider body of texts, to reconstitute them, and then to arrange them in order to provide a specific discourse on a subject. This process can be seen in the different ways the three works under consideration in this paper respond to the subjects of jihad and martyrdom.

The Qur’an’s Fragmentation and Realignment of Gospel and Talmud

Holger Zellentin, The University of Nottingham

The unique ways in which the Qur’an ‘heard’ select stories from the Aramaic Gospel tradition has been considered by generations of scholars. Yet, only the most rudimentary consensus has been established about the nature of the texts with which the Qur’an’s audience was familiar, let alone the ways in which the Qur’an used these texts. The Qur’an’s utilisation of Talmudic material has received even less attention, and a consensus is even more remote. The present paper seeks to advance, one small step, our understanding of the deployment of both corpora in the Qur’an by considering them jointly. More than occasionally, the Qur’an fragments and realigns demonstrable elements of the (likely oral) Gospel and the Talmudic traditions together in order to solidify its claim of being a correction to the shortcomings of both.

Unity and Fragmentation in the Standard Text of the Qur’an : The Prophet as First Addressee and Dialogic Argumentation.

Mehdi Azaiez, Laboratoire d’excellence ‘Religions et Sociétés dans le Monde Méditerranéen’ (Labex RESMED), Paris.

As defined in discourse analysis, first addressee (or interlocutor) is the person involved in a conversation or dialogue. The figure of the Qur’an’s first addressee is a textual phenomenon linked to the structure of the text and its argumentative dimension. In my contribution, I will define the notion of the first addressee in the Qur’an, its linguistic forms and functions within the entire Qur’an. I will explore the following questions : The variety of the notions of ‘the first addressee’ ; the double aspect of fragmentation/unity of text after its collection and the role of the first addressee in the argumentative shape of the text. My contribution aims to show (i) how the dialogic relation between a Qur’anic enunciator and its first addressee reveals one of the main aspects of Qur’anic argumentation ; (ii) how the Qur’an legitimates the status of its first addressee as a prophet.

PARTICIPANT BIOGRAPHIES

Aziz Al-Azmeh has taught extensively in Europe, the Middle East and North America. He obtained his DPhil in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford. His publications in English include Islams and Modernities (London, 1993, 1996, 2009), Muslim Kingship : Power and the Sacred in Muslim, Christian, and Pagan Polities (London, 1997), and The Emergence of Islam in Late Antiquity : Allah and His People (2014, forthcoming). Since 2002, Professor al-Azmeh has been at the Central European University, Budapest, where he is CEU University Professor in the School of Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Mehdi Azaiez is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Laboratoire d’excellence ‘Religions et Sociétés dans le Monde Méditerranéen’ (Labex RESMED), Paris. He completed his PhD at the University of Aix-en-Provence. During 2012-2013, he was an Instructor in Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame (US) and Co-director (along with Prof. Gabriel Said Reynolds) of the ‘Qur’an Seminar’ an academic project dedicated to increasing scholarly understanding of the Qur’anic text.

Stephen Burge is a Research Associate in the Qur’anic Studies Unit at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London. He completed his PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2009, and published his dissertation as Angels in Islam : Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti’s al-Haba’ik fi akhbar al-mala’ik (London, 2012). He has continued to study Suyuti and his works, especially his major exegetical work, al-Durr al-manthur fi’l-tafsir bi’l-ma’thur .

Asma Hilali is a Research Associate in the Qur’anic Studies Unit at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London. She works on the transmission of religious literature in early and medieval Islam. She is the author of numerous articles on the transmission of knowledge in classical Islam. She is currently working on a commented edition of the oldest manuscript of Qur’an, Manuscript 27.1, Sanaa, Yemen.

Frédéric Imbert is Professor of Arabic Language and Islamic Epigraphy at Aix-Marseille University (France). He is also a member of the Institut de recherches et d’études sur le monde arabe et musulman (IREMAM) of the Centre national de la recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France. A specialist in Arabic and Islamic inscriptions, he teaches epigraphy and Arabic language. He has led numerous fieldworks and surveys in Jordan and Syria since 1987, mainly in the desert steppes in order to gather Arabic inscriptions particularly from the first two centuries of Islam in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon). He is currently undertaking a comprehensive study of Kufic graffiti in order to reveal their historical, religious, linguistic and palaeographical dimension. Prof. Imbert was Director of Education Department of Contemporary Arabic in Cairo from 2002 to 2006. He is the author of a book on Arabic grammar and of numerous articles on epigraphy.

Holger Zellentin has held the position of Lecturer in Jewish Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Nottingham, since 2011. He is a scholar of the Ancient Near and Middle East, and his research focuses on Judaism from the time of Alexander the Great to Early Islam. His current research projects include a religious pre-history of Islam, for which he won an Arts and Humanities Research (AHRC) grant, and a study of the ways in which the Talmudic rabbis incorporated Christian narratives. He also works on Hellenistic Judaism and on the sociology and anthropology of ancient religion.

(Source : http://www.iis.ac.uk/view_article.asp?ContentID=114107)

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