Book recommendations: On the Qur’an

It is likely that I will be offering a course on the Qur’an again next spring, and I’m already planning on working my way systematically through the text one or more times before that (likely in different translations). I’ll obviously never have the instinctive command of the Qur’an that I have of the Bible, but it would be helpful in class if I could more readily make cross-references, etc.

Toward the same end, I would like to read at least a handful of additional books on the Qur’an and on Muhammad’s life and the time period. My main sources on the Qur’an as such so far have been Wadudi and Barlas — because everyone’s research into religious scriptures should start from the feminist critique! — and I’ve also worked my way through most of Hodgson’s imposing tomes. I’m already planning on picking up Kermani’s God is Beautiful, which should keep me occupied for quite a while.

And here is the question: what books on the Qur’an and its historical setting should I prioritize? (And please, please respond in comments rather than on Twitter, so that I can use this post as a reference.)

6 thoughts on “Book recommendations: On the Qur’an

  1. I’d take a look at Daniel Madigan’s “The Qur’an’s Self-Image” (Princeton 2001). It’s probably most interesting for readers who have some basic knowledge of Arabic, but I’d at least flip through the introduction. His basic argument is more or less: “Taken all together what the Qur’an says of the kitab [and, thus, itself] points not to a circumscribed corpus of liturgy, dogma, and law that can be duplicated and parceled out for each group, but to an open-ended process of divine engagement with humanity in its concrete history” (p. 178). Good luck!

  2. You might try to find examples of the various types of tafsir to assign to members of the class. In tafsir classes I took, we each chose one from Shi’i , historical sunni, sufi and grammatical tafsirs among others. I am unsure what of each of these are available in English. The basis for all of our studies was the Jajalayn (the two Jalals- see Wikipedia) In English:

    The referenced site has several tafsirs translated into English.

    I am fond of Muhammad Asad’s The Message of the Qur’an; it’s useful to compare to several translations- Yusuf Ali and Arberry – among the three a more nuanced view is possible and I’ve found that Asad’s version is reliable.

    Mahmoud M Ayoub’s The Qur’an and its Interpreters (vols 1&2) is invaluable.

    Ismail Hakki Bursevi’s translation of, and commentary on Fusus al-hikam by Muhyiddin ibn ʻArabi in three volumes would be extremely interesting to use.
    In my experience almost all Sufi works can be seen as commentaries on the Qur’an.

  3. the harpercollins study qur’an will be out in fall, and will be fantastic.
    for muslim commentary traditions, and though only the first volume is out so far, IEQ.
    martin lings’ biography of the prophet.
    i’ve heard ingrid mattson’s book on the qur’an is really good.
    fazlur rahman’s major themes.
    toshihiko izutsu’s ethico-religious concepts.
    i’m glad you’ve already got wadud and kermani.

  4. I’m looking forward to the Harper-Collins — having a standard academic translation will be a godsend. The more generously annotated translations tend to be a little too apologetic in intent for my purposes.

    Thanks all for the recommendations so far — and don’t be shy with more!

  5. Late to this party. I came here to highly recommend Izutsu’s Structure of Ethical Terms in the Qur’an/The Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur’an (not sure if one is just a reprint of the other with a different title, I have both but they’re in storage and it’s been about a dozen years since I’ve read him). Also his God and Man in the Koran. He’s excellent and very clear. In my time as a grad student of Islamic Studies I think I learned more from reading and thinking about Izutsu than almost any other scholar.

    The Ayyoub is good and so is, IIRC the Madigan.

    Agree with the other Barry that much of Sufism can largely be seen as a commentary on the Qur’an, especially Ibn al-`Arabi who was explicit about this but didn’t think much of the Bursevi (I’ve read much of the Fusus in Arabic). Incidentally, the first half of Izutsu’s Sufism and Taoism is pretty much a self-contained explication of Ibn al-Arab’s Sufism based largely on Izutsu’s close reading of the Fusus. Basically what I’m saying is you can’t go wrong reading Izutsu.

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