Return to the Origins, The Qur’ān’s Reformation of Judaism and Christianity
An International Colloquium
University of Nottingham
20 - 21 January 2013
This conference has been made possible through the generous support of the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the School of Humanities, at the University of Nottingham.
Mehdi Azaiez, University of Notre Dame (USA)
Islam Dayeh, Free University, Berlin
Gerald Hawting, School of Oriental and African Studies, London
Angelika Neuwirth, Free University, Berlin
Gabriel Said Reynolds, University of Notre Dame
Nicolai Sinai, Oxford University
Guy Stroumsa, Oxford University (respondent)
Joseph Witztum, The Hebrew University
Holger Zellentin, University of Nottingham
In several ways, the Qur’ān presents itself within a true Abrahamic tradition that has been compromised. It accuses Gentiles, Jews, and Christians respectively, individually as well as summarily, of a series of transgressions whose precise nature has been subject to much recent discussion: among them are scriptural or exegetical distortion (taḥrīf), impure monotheism (shirk), and denial of revelation (kufr). It also portrays its religious criticism in terms of a return to the Abrahamic origins of true monotheism. Finally, it repeats and reshapes traditional material. Understanding the Qur’ān therefore necessitates an appreciation of how it balances continuity and change in what it negates and in what it affirms.
In modern scholarship, efforts to portray the Qur’ān as in dialogue with previous religious traditions have yielded important insights. Likewise, scholars continue to emphasise correctly that one must understand the Qur’ān on its own terms and in clear distinction from previous traditions. Both tendencies are combined, with different emphases, in several recent publications, among them the recent volumes edited by Gabriel Said Reynolds, as well as the co-edited volume by Angelika Neuwirth, Michael Marx, and Nicolai Sinai. These and many other studies illustrate the potential of integrating “literary” and “historical” approaches.
A group of experts is invited to evaluate the Qur’ān’s continuity in terms of the specific changes it advocates, and to study its polemics and self-perception in light of its responses to Late Antique discourse as manifested especially, but not exclusively, in Jewish and Christian literature. We would explore how the creative tension between tradition and reform manifests itself in all aspects of the Qur’ān, including law, narrative and polemics. Such studies could include, but are not restricted to, inquiries into how specific Qur’ānic passages (or entire surahs) can be read as engaging relevant late antique texts or concepts, how the Qur’an modulates particular themes or concepts in dialogue with previous tradition, or more broadly how the Qur’an presents itself vis-à-vis Gentiles, Jews, and Christians.