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.
Indeed, the field is marked by astounding divisions of opinion. Scholars disagree not only over fine points of theological interpretation, but even over the definition of the Quran’s Arabic words. One example is the word misr. When the Quran has God tell the Israelites (Q 2:61), “Go down to a misr,” some scholars argue it means “Go down to any town.” Others insist it means, “Go down to Egypt.”
Some Muslims may have reservations about this project taking place in the West, or subjecting their sacred scripture to the tools of academic inquiry at all. In the Islamic world, work on the Quran is often scrutinized by religious authorities, and any scholarship on the Quran in the West is often assumed to be the sort of Orientalism that is necessarily hostile to Islam.
The work of the International Qur’anic Studies Association, however, is intended to show that academic inquiry is inherently an act of deep respect for the subject. Indeed the academic work of our organization will in part be inspired by Islamic tradition itself.