The Quran in Context – Historical and Literary Investigations Edited By Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, And Michael Marx
The Quran in Context
The academic discipline of Quranic studies today is most strikingly characterized, not by any impressive scholarly achievements of the field itself,
which has been appropriately diagnosed by Fred Donner as being “in a state of disarray ,” 1 but by the large-scale interest of the media that the Qur’an’s origin and interpretation have solicited during the last decade or so .
Indeed, the lacunae of the field — impossible to overlook when confronted with the impressive list of what has been achieved in biblical or classical studies — have developed into a veritable litany:
There is no critical edition of the text, no free access to all of the relevant manuscript evidence, no clear conception of the cultural and linguistic profile of the milieu within which it has emerged, no consensus on basic issues of methodology, a significant amount of mutual distrust among scholars,
and — what is perhaps the single most important obstacle to scholarly progress — no adequate training of future students of the Qur’an in the non-Arabic languages and literatures and cultural traditions that have undoubtedly shaped its historical context.
Yet the general public’s interest in Qur’anic studies, oddly opposed as it may seem to the sorry state of the discipline itself, may not be an altogether negative thing;
it holds out a vague promise of exciting discoveries that may attract younger scholars and inspire more senior unprecedented rise in the attention given to the Qur’an in Western media can be dated to January 1999, when Toby Lester published his article “What is the Koran?” (The Atlantic Monthly 283: 43-56).
Media attention to the Qur’an was subsequently stoked by the near-coincidence between the publication of Christoph Luxenberg’s Die syro-aramaische Lesart des Koran in 2000 and the new public interest in all things Islamic that followed the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001;
a perfect illustration of the extent to which public awareness of Luxenberg’s book has been shaped by the specter of Islamic terrorism is provided, for example, by Ibn Warraq’s piece “Virgins?
What Virgins?” published in The Guardian, January 12, 2002. Most recently, the Qur’an has made it onto the front page of The Quran in Context – Historical and Literary Investigations