Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize Winners 2020

The International Qurʾanic Studies Association is delighted to announce that the third annual Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize (open to papers delivered by early career scholars at the 2019 annual meeting) has been awarded to both Saqib Hussain (University of Oxford) and Andrew J. O’Connor (St. Norbert College). The winners of the Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize receives a cash award. In addition, an expanded and edited version of the winning paper qualifies for publication in the Journal of the International Qur’anic Studies Association.rippin

This award is given in honor of Prof. Andrew Rippin (1950-2016), a leading scholar of the Qurʾān and inaugural president of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (2014). Prof. Rippin is remembered as “an esteemed colleague, revered mentor, and scholarly inspiration to many members of the IQSA community.” An announcement regarding submissions for the fourth annual Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize will follow the 2020 IQSA annual meeting in Boston.

An abstract of both award winning papers follows:

“The Prophet’s Visions in Sūrat al-Najm.”
Saqib Hussain

Several fruitful studies have shown that sūrah-opening oaths frequently depict an observable, physical phenomenon as an artistic illustration of a supernatural reality that the sūrah goes on to describe. Q al-Najm 53 opens with an oath by the movement of the Star (al-najm), and goes on to describe the Prophet’s two visions of an angelic or divine being.  However, the connection between the oath by the Star and the Prophetic visions has hitherto proven difficult to establish. There are in addition several features of the visions that are difficult to understand. I show in this paper, by reference to pre-Islamic poetry and pre-Islamic astronomy, that the opening oath is recalling the motion of the Pleiades across the night sky, and this mirrors the Prophet’s described encounter with the divine/angelic being in the sūrah. This allows us to solve several interpretive difficulties that the sūrah presents. In addition, there appears to be a strong continuity between the broader astronomical lore of the sūrah and Safaitic inscriptions, which in turn can be used to further our understanding of the sūrah. Finally, as the Prophetic visions seem to describe the onset of revelation, I explore the possibility that we can use the astronomical data embedded in the sūrah to help date the solar month when the first revelation occurred.


“Paraenesis, Recreation, and the Revocation of Bodily Agency in Surat Ya Sin (Q 36).”
Andrew O’Connor

Surat Ya Sin (Q 36) employs a remarkable variety of imagery associated with the body, including both direct statements about parts of the body and evocative language appealing to one’s sense of pleasure or harm. This symbolism serves a paraenetic purpose, fostering a particular response from its addressees. Thus, it urges addressees to become inhabitants of paradise through appealing to their sense of bodily enjoyment, constructing a mental picture of leisure and recreation. However, the second component of this discourse is intentionally jarring and brings to mind violence to the body; in short, to describe unbelief the surah employs corporeal imagery that implies the revocation of bodily agency. The damned lose control of their body—their very limbs work against them to ensure their perdition. With this language in particular we can find echoes and developments of biblical symbolism. In this paper, I present the diverse ways that Surat Ya Sin constructs its arguments utilizing symbolism of the body. The surah uses somatic presentations of the otherworld as part of a rhetorical strategy: linking bodily resurrection with a bodily subsistence after judgment. I first (1) present a brief overview of some recent scholarship on heaven, hell, and the resurrection in the Qur’an and then (2) argue for the centrality of the doctrine of bodily resurrection in Q 36. Lastly I highlight the contrast between corporeal agency in (3) paradise and (4) the revocation of agency for unbelievers.

Saqib-pictureSaqib Hussain is a doctoral student at the University of Oxford, holding a scholarship from the AHRC and affiliated with the QuCIP project. He has studied for several years in Damascus and Cairo, focusing on Arabic and Qur’anic exegesis. His DPhil research is on the term “wisdom” in the Qur’an, and its possible connection to late antique notions of natural law. He has a forthcoming publication on Qur’anic textual criticism in the edited volume Unlocking the Medinan Qur’an, and a chapter on several minor Qur’anic prophets in the forthcoming Biblical Traditions in the Qur’an.

O'ConnorAndrew J. O’Connor is Assistant Professor of Theology & Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin (USA). He completed his Ph.D. in 2019 at the University of Notre Dame. His doctoral dissertation analyzed the Qur’an’s different models of prophethood in conversation with notions of prophecy within other communities in the Near East. He also holds a M.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Andrew’s current research interests are the Qur’an’s engagement with Jewish and Christian traditions (and the cultural/religious environment of Late Antiquity broadly speaking) and the Qur’an’s eschatology. Andrew was the recipient of a Fulbright Research Grant to study in Amman, Jordan, for 2017–18.


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