The Qurʾān in context: historical and literary investigations into the Qurʾānic milieu, edited by Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, and Michael Marx

Thomas Hoffmann


The Qurʾān in Context: Historical and Literary Investigations into the Qurʾānic Milieu, edited by Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, and Michael Marx, (Texts and Studies of the Qurʾān: 6) (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2011), vii + 864 pp., ISBN: 978-90-04-21101-8, $67 (pb)

First paragraph

This voluminous anthology, comprising one introductory chapter and twenty-seven essays, is devoted to Qurʾānic studies. It emerged from a conference in Berlin in 2004 and a summer academy in 2007 conceived and led by Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, and Michael Marx, all scholars specializing in Qurʾānic studies. The organizers reappear as editors and contributors to this publication. It comes as no surprise, then that The Qurʾān in Context reflects the general outlook of the 'Berlin school' (Sinai has since taken a position at Oxford University), whose main instigator is associated with the work of professor Angelika Neuwirth. In addition to the majority of scholars with a German academic background, this perspective implies an emphasis on Late Antiquity and the emergence of the Qurʾān within this broad and multifaceted regional, chronological, and religious framework. Indeed, the twelve essays in the first part of the volume, titled The Qurʾan's Historical Context, "address various general aspects of the Qurʾān's political, economic, linguistic, and cultural context." (p. 17) This includes archaeological, theological, and literary aspects. The now-obsolete opinion that the Qurʾān emerged in splendid Arab isolation is definitively abandoned in favor of a Qurʾān emerging and acting as a dynamic force-field in continuity (and polemics) with late antique milieus, texts, and discourses. Within this framework, the term "Qurʾān" becomes the common denominator of both the chronological-dialectical processes of the three factors (Prophet, revelation, and community) as well as the edited and canonized text corpus, crystallizing into the post-ʿUthmānic and diacritical Qurʾānic muṣḥaf. Neuwirth and her affiliated peers tend to place special emphasis on the diachronic trajectories of the Qurʾānic text, especially its self-reflexive intertextual relations with and appropriations of Jewish, Christian, and Arab-pagan traditions.

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