Johanne Christiansen wins Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize 2018

Johanne Christiansen wins Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize 2018

The International Qurʾanic Studies Association is delighted to announce that the second annual Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize (open to papers delivered by junior scholars at the 2017 annual meeting) has been awarded to Johanne Christiansen of Aarhus University for her paper “‘And Their Prayer at the House is Nothing but a Whistling and a Clapping of Hands’ (Q 8:35): Negotiating Processions in the Qur’an.” The winner 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.

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 second annual Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize will follow the 2018 IQSA annual meeting in Boston.


An abstract of Johanne Christiansen’s award winning paper follows:

The qur’anic text (re)introduces various ritual practices, including those around the Ka’bah. However, the qur’anic descriptions of these rituals are often general, leaving the development of the Islamic ritual complex to later traditions. The qur’anic rituals also vary in detail. Where (e.g.) the fast in Ramadan (Q 2:183-87) is outlined in some detail, the ritual prayer (Q 17:78-79) or almsgiving (Q 31:1-4) are only indicated. Thus, the question remains: why does the Qur’an contain so little information about the central Islamic rituals? There are two answers to this question. 1) Because the rituals were already known to the qur’anic milieu and did not need any further clarification. They go, so to speak, without saying.  2) Because certain aspects of the rituals worried or even generated some ideological uneasiness in the qur’anic community. See (e.g.) Q 2:158: “So whosoever makes hajj to the House, or performs the ‘umrah, it is no fault in him to circumambulate them.” In this regard, the qur’anic strategy seemed to be to not say too much. In this paper, I will argue that both answers are relevant regarding how the Qur’an negotiates the practice of circumambulation. The circumambulation (tawaf) can be defined as a type of demonstrative and participative procession (Lang 2015). It is mentioned several times in the Qur’an, but only once in a polemic distancing from an earlier practice: “And their prayer at the House is nothing but a whistling and a clapping of hands” (Q 8:35). Is this one polemic note an example of “saying too much”? Does the Qur’an here indicate what its community really thought of the pre-Islamic practices around the Ka’bah? The Qur’an is in other contexts explicit when taking a polemical stance against (e.g.) the Jews and Christians (Q 5:12-13). Is it possible that when it comes to ritual practices, the qur’anic strategy was not to utter its criticism too loudly and by that, attract as many adherents as possible? According to Robert Bellah, processional practices are in particular bound to religious orientations before Late Antiquity (Bellah & Joas 2012). However, to walk in a procession seems also to be a basic human need. In this paper, I will demonstrate that the Qur’an, as a late antique text, had to negotiate a solution between an ideal of anti-procession and the feasibility and long-term durability of its ritual practices. A circumambulation with particular gravitas and without clapping and whistling is the pragmatic result of such a negotiation (cf. Halevi 2007). Here, the most important thing, according to the Qur’an, is to pray and address one’s action to God, but if circumambulation is needed, then that can also be accepted (cf. Maghen 2005).


christiansenJohanne Louise Christiansen (Ph.D. 2016, Aarhus University) is currently a Postdoctoral fellow at the Danish research project Ambiguity and Precision in the Qurʾan, which is funded by the Danish Independent Research Fund. The project is based at the Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen and lead by Professor Thomas Hoffmann. Christiansen’s dissertation was entitled “‘My Lord, Deliver Me from the People of the Evildoers (rabbi najjinī mina l-qawmi l-ẓālimīna)’ (Q 28:21): The Root ẓ-l-m and the Semantic Field of Oppression in the Qur’ān.” She is also the author of the article “The Dark Koran: A Semantic Analysis of the Koranic Darknesses (ẓulumāt) and their Metaphorical Usage,” in Arabica 62 (2015): 185-233.


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