Statistical Methods for Identifying Unknown Qur’anic Readings: An Application to Pronominal Variat..

Statistical Methods for Identifying Unknown Qur’anic Readings: An Application to Pronominal Variat..

Hythem Sidky, Independent Scholar, IQSA
IQSA International Conference 2021 “Giorgio La Pira” Library, Palermo, Italy
Panel 7. Carriers of the Text and Readings 2: The Qur’an in Light of Digital Humanities

Understanding the similarities and differences between Qur’anic reading traditions is critical to the study of their emergence and proliferation. Existing works comparing the reading traditions have typically relied on the relative number of agreements between readings to establish closeness and draw conclusions. However, this one-dimensional approach does not make full use of the rich information contained within the data. In particular, the patterns of agreement and disagreement among readings can provide evidence of local traditions and reveal a lot about their shared origins. In this paper I present the development of a new quantitative methodology for comparing Qur’anic readings. I leverage Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and other dimensionality reduction techniques to produce visual representations of the similarities between readings. This new approach makes it possible to identify regionality and other characteristics of unknown or indeterminate readings found in manuscripts and the secondary literature. I demonstrate the utility of this methodology through a study of pronominal suffixes in the Qur’an. I also discuss some of the key challenges associated with defining distance metrics which are key to obtaining accurate results.

Welcoming IQSA’s New Executive Director: Hythem Sidky

On behalf of the IQSA board of directors, it is a great pleasure to announce that Dr. Hythem Sidky has been appointed as the International Qur’anic Studies Association’s new Executive Director. He will succeed Dr. Emran El-Badawi, who co-founded IQSA and has been Executive Director since its inception.

hsidky-select-portraits-squareHythem combines expertise in the sciences with a specialization in Qurʾānic manuscripts and reading traditions. He holds an M.S. in applied mathematics and Ph.D. in biomolecular engineering from the University of Notre Dame. Hythem’s dual background allows him to bring together traditional philology and mathematical analysis to study the dynamics and evolution of the Qurʾān in early Islam. He has worked on the stemmatics of Qurʾānic manuscripts, reconstruction of regional oral traditions, and continues to investigate applications of stylometry to the Qurʾān.

In his new role as Executive Director, Hythem will work directly with the Board of Directors and standing committees to lead the organization through these challenging times. He will continue to maintain the operational strength of the organization while increasing its digital presence and reach. Hythem will be responsible for managing the organization’s conferences, meetings, and other operational needs. He will also serve as Treasurer and oversee fundraising and other financial matters. Suggestions, inquiries, or questions concerning IQSA’s operations can be sent to

Please join us in welcoming Hythem to his new role as Executive Director. The board of directors is committed to working with Hythem to ensure his successful leadership and the growth of IQSA as it enters its next chapter.

With warm regards,

Holger Zellentin
IQSA Chair of the Board