Lecture Tangier Global Forum Lecture Series
Scholars in the Islamic world and the West alike have long debated the Qurʾān’s relationship with the Bible. In the history of tafsīr certain Muslim scholars consulted the Bible, or at least Biblical traditions, in order to add details to Qurʾānic accounts. Not all scholars agreed, however, that such consultation was licit, and some rejected any traditions (often referred to as isrāʾīliyyāt) received from Jews and Christians, citing prophetic hadith to defend their point. In the West many of the earliest Orientalists, including Abraham Geiger, Theodor Nöldeke and Heinrich Speyer, were almost exclusively interested in finding parallels, or near parallels, between the Qurʾān and Jewish or Christian literature. The approach that Reynolds will advocate in this paper involves a middle position: The idea that the Qurʾān depends on its audience’s Biblical knowledge to advance its own message. By citing examples including the Qurʾān’s references to the killing of prophets, its account of Abraham’s guests and the Qurʾān’s description of paradise as a garden in heaven, he will show that the Qurʾān presumes a knowledge of certain Jewish and (especially) Christian traditions even as it shapes these traditions in a way that conforms to its own theological message. Accordingly one might conclude that the serious study of the Bible will add to, and not distract from, one’s appreciation of the Qurʾān.
Gabriel Said Reynolds researches the Qurʾān and Muslim/Christian relations and is Professor of Islamic Studies and Theology in the Department of Theology at Notre Dame. He is the author of The Qurʾān and Its Biblical Subtext (Routledge 2010) and The Emergence of Islam (Fortress, 2012), the translator of ʿAbd al-Jabbar’s Critique of Christian Origins (BYU 2008), and editor of The Qurʾān in Its Historical Context (Routledge 2008) and New Perspectives on the Qurʾān: The Qurʾān in Its Historical Context 2 (Routledge 2011). In 2012-13 Prof. Reynolds directed, along with Mehdi Azaiez, “The Qurʾān Seminar,” a year-long collaborative project dedicated to encouraging dialogue among scholars of the Qurʾān. He is currently chair of the executive board of the International Qurʾanic Studies Association and completing a book (Yale Univ. Press) on the Qurʾān in the light of Biblical tradition. At Notre Dame he teaches courses on theology, Christian-Muslim Relations and Islamic Origins.