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Ebrahim College

Western Islamic Studies

Western Islamic Studies – 5 Credits Brief description This course will familiarise students with the most important [...]

    Western Islamic Studies – 5 Credits

    Brief description

    This course will familiarise students with the most important Western academic scholarship on the Islamic scriptural sources of the Qur’an and the Hadith from the 19th to the 21st centuries. Tracing the influence of key thinkers within each of these two fields will enable an appreciation of the development of academic Islamic studies and allow students to begin to engage with its current debates in a serious way.
    The course is split into two halves, focusing in turn on major scholars in Qur’anic studies and then Hadith studies. There is a particular focus on demonstrating the major trends in each field over the last two hundred years and on examining the links between figures. The teacher has active research interests in both of these fields and so will supplement analysis of the chosen figures with his own approach.
    Students are given background readings in advance each week, as well as selected English extracts drawn from the original work of the figure studied. In each 2 hour class, the teacher delivers a lecture providing an introduction to the studied scholar’s thought, before the extracts are closely read, discussed and analysed with a focus on assessing the assumptions and argument of the scholar. In this way, students hone their skills in academic Islamic studies.
    Status OE


    Advanced knowledge of Qur’an and Hadith studies. Ability to comprehend texts in demanding academic English.

    Recommended prior study

    Academic textbooks in contemporary Qur’an and Hadith studies. See texts by Watt and Brown, below.


    10 weeks (20 hours) in 2016-17 session


    This is an optional elective offered at A3, A4 and Dawrah level of the EC Alimiyya Seminary programme. Students learn about the scriptural sources of Islam from a non-Muslim scholarly perspective and as a result become able to better understand both the assumptions of Western Islamic studies and their own assumptions from a traditionally grounded viewpoint.

    Content summary

    Week 1 – Introduction to the course/Theodor Nöldeke: Qur’anic Chronology

    – Emmanuelle Stefanidis, “The Qur’an Made Linear: A Study of the Geschichte des Qorâns’ Chronological Reordering,” Journal of Qur’anic Studies 10, no. 2 (2009): 1-22.
    – Theodor Nöldeke, The History of the Qurʾān, trans. Wolfgang Behn (Brill, 2013).

    Week 2 – Arthur Jeffery: Qur’anic Compilation


    – Arthur Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’an: The Old Codices (AMS Press, 1936)‬.
    – Fred M. Donner: “The Qur’an in Recent Scholarship: Challenges and Desiderata,” in G. S. Reynolds (ed), The Qur’an in Its Historical Context (Routledge, 2008).

    Week 3 – Richard Bell: Reordering the Qur’an


    – Richard Bell, The Qur’an. Translated, with a critical re-arrangement of the Surahs.
    – Richard Bell, A Commentary on the Qur’an.
    – Andrew Rippin, Reading the Qur’an with Richard Bell.

    Week 4 – John Wansbrough: ‘Qur’anic Studies’ and its Influence

    – John Wansbrough, Qur’anic Studies.
    – Andrew Rippin, Foreword to Qur’anic Studies.

    Week 5 – Angelika Neuwirth: Liturgy through Context and Structure

    – Angelika Neuwirth, Scripture, Poetry and the Making of a Community: Reading the Qur’an as a Literary Text.
    – Travis Zadeh, The Literary Turn in Qur’anic Studies.

    Week 6 – Ignaz Goldziher: The ‘Backwards Growth’ of Hadith

    – I. Goldziher, Muslim Studies.
    Week 7 – Joseph Schacht: Legal Hadith and Regional Schools

    – Joseph Schacht, The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence
    – M. M. Al-Azami, On the Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence

    Week 8 – G. H. A. Juynboll: Western isnād Analysis

    G. H. A. Juynboll, The Encyclopaedia of Canonical Hadith.
    J. A. C. Brown, “Review of the Encyclopaedia of Canonical Hadith.”

    Week 9 – Harald Motzki: isnād-cum-matn Analysis

    H. Motzki, Analysing Muslim Traditions
    H. Motzki, “Dating Hadith”

    Week 10 – After Motzki: The Future of Western Hadith Studies

    – A. K. Reinhart, “Juynbolliana”

    Learning outcomes Knowledge and Understanding

    – Up-to-date knowledge of modern critical academic scholarship on the Qur’an and Hadith, as well as the assumptions on which it is based.
    – Appreciate the development of Western scholarship on the Qur’an and Hadith from the 19th to 21st century and the links between major scholars.
    – To understand the ways in which Western scholars have analysed the chronology, compilation, sura composition, historicity and context of the Qur’an.
    – To understand the way in which Western scholars have analysed the isnad system of the Hadith and have proposed their own methods of assessing the veracity of hadiths.


    – Ability to constructively engage with and critique Western scholarship on the Islamic scriptural sources.
    – Ability to reconstruct and evaluate arguments in academic texts.
    – Ability to academically question one’s own assumptions about Islamic scriptural sources.
    – Ability to formulate questions and share views verbally in the classroom.
    – Ability to work independently to research and write on a topic of interest from the course’s subject matter.
    Teaching and learning Strategies

    Students are given background readings in advance each week, as well as selected extracts drawn from the works of key figures in Western Qur’an and Hadith studies, to prepare. In each 2 hour class, the teacher delivers a lecture on the figure’s thought and the extracts are discussed and analysed to highlight key points related to the week’s topic.
    Assessment Strategies

    One 3000 word essay on a topic agreed with the teacher (75%)
    – Attendance, preparation and participation, assessed by teacher (25%)

    Indicative resources and further reading
    – W. M. Watt and Richard Bell, Introduction to the Qur’an.
    – A. Ripping (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to the Qur’an.
    – T. J. Winter, The Cambridge Companion to the Qur’an.
    – Jonathan A. C. Brown, The Hadith.
    – Mustafa Shah (ed.), The Hadith.

    Course Reviews

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