Now, thanks to a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Society of Biblical Literature is working to set up the International Qur’anic Studies Association – not to influence it, merely to provide an incubator for it.
There is a tremendous need for such a group, not only for scholars and specialists, but also for the general public. Good scholarship leads to understanding, and understanding leads to respect. In the world today respect between religious groups, and for religious groups, is sorely needed. That’s abundantly clear in the latest wave of violence entangling the Muslim and Western worlds over an anti-Muslim video.
Scholars of the Bible have already begun to appreciate the importance of Islam’s holy book to their work. The Quran – which emerged from the heart of the Middle East in the seventh century – is a text in close conversation with Biblical tradition. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mary are all central characters in the Quran.
Moreover, the Quran’s theological message – and in particular its commentaries on Christian doctrine – suggests it is an important source for knowledge of religious history.
The formation of this organization will provide a quickly growing group of scholars with an easily accessible forum to share insights on the history and meaning of the Quran. They can publicize new discoveries in archaeology, manuscript studies, and linguistics that will deepen the understanding of the holy scripture of Islam. These discussions will help advance Quranic studies – recently described as an academic field in “utmost disarray” – both in the US and around the world.