Between Bible and Qur'an

Between Bible and Qur

A lecture by Devin J. Stewart (Emory University) and Roberto Tottoli (University of Naples L'Orientale)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019
4:00 PM
314 Royce Hall

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The Qur’an draws on three major earlier traditions, those of Judaism, Christianity tradition, and pre-Islamic paganism, and while the Qur’an presents itself as a continuation and confirmation of the Torah and the Gospel, its style deviates significantly from that found in Biblical texts. Western scholarship has focused on Biblical influence in terms of the characters of Biblical narrative, and specific terms and concepts, and the versions of individual stories. This study focuses instead on genres, which have not been entirely ignored but have certainly been understudied. A notable exception is Wansbrough’s Qur’anic Studies, which assumes an essential continuity of the types of prophetic speech in the monotheistic tradition. This study takes a close look at several genres, including prayers, parables, and punishment stories, in an attempt to show the close relationship between Biblical and Qur’anic texts while also pointing out distinct features of Qur’anic as opposed to Biblical style.

The term Isra’iliyyat is quoted in Islamic literature to mention narratives and traditions originally e supposedly coming from Jewish and Christian literature, including the Bible. The term has circulated since the 10th century and has been used in different ways gaining a specific polemical sense only with the work of Ibn Taymiyya and his pupil. The many occurrences through the ages display a variety in the meaning given to it and the extent of what Islamic authors conceived about the relation of Islamic tradition in relation to Jewish and other literatures including the Bible. Such a variety of attitudes also emerge in Western scholarly literature where the term is given meanings mostly related to the research approaches rather than its medieval circulation and attestations.

Devin J. Stewart earned a B.A. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University in 1984 and a Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. He now teaches in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. His areas of scholarly interest include the Qur’an, Shiite Islam, Islamic legal scholarship, biography, autobiography, speech genres, and other topics in Arabic and Islamic studies. He is the author of Islamic Legal Orthodoxy (Utah University Press, 1998) and Disagreements of the Jurists (NYU Press, 2015) and a co-author of Interpreting the Self (University of California Press, 2002). He has written a number of studies on Qur’anic rhyme and rhythm and on form criticism of the Qur’an.

Roberto Tottoli is Professor of Islamic studies at the University of Naples L’Orientale. He has published studies on the Biblical tradition in the Qur’an and Islam (Biblical prophets in the Qur’an and Muslim literature, Richmond, 2002; The stories of the prophets of Ibn Mutarrif al-Tarafi, Berlin, 2003) and the medieval Islamic literature. His most recent publications include Ludovico Marracci at work: The Evolution of his Latin translation of the Qur’ān in the light of his newly discovered manuscripts (co-authored with Reinhold F. Glei), Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2016; and Books and Written Culture of Islamic World. Studies Presented to Claude Gilliot on the Occasion of His 75th Birthday (edited with Andrew Rippin), Leiden – Boston, 2015.

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Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, Center for the Study of Religion