Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize Winner 2023

Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize Winner 2023

rippinThe International Qurʾanic Studies Association is delighted to announce that the sixth annual Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize (open to papers delivered by early career scholars at the 2022 Annual Meeting) has been awarded to Eric Devilliers for his paper: ““Seconding Sinai?: The Re-presentation of Mosaic Theophany 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 Professor 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 seventh annual Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize will follow the 2023 IQSA Annual Meeting.

An abstract of the award-winning paper follows:

Seconding Sinai?: The Re-presentation of Mosaic Theophany in the Qur’an
Mosaic theophany constituted an axis of exegetical controversy in Late Antiquity. Jews and Christians offered contrasting accounts of what Moses saw at the Burning Bush and at Mount Sinai and therefore assigned different significance to these visual dispensations. In particular, Christian theologians interpreted Mosaic theophanies in a way that emphasized Jesus Christ’s prophetic and ontological superiority. Jesus Christ, they argued, alone truly saw God; Moses did not see God atop Mt. Sinai, and insofar as he saw God, he saw the coming of Christ.

An investigation of how the Qur’an receives the Mosaic theophanic accounts and the logic behind its reformulations remains a scholarly desideratum. This paper, then, outlines how the Qur’an systematically re-presents these two biblical episodes (e.g., in Q 7:142-172, 20:9-36, 27:6-12, and 28:29-35) to respond to Christian and Jewish presentations of theophany and visual dispensation. I argue that, in these passages, the Qur’an takes up Christian exegetical narratives and their paradigm of vision in order to inventively incorporate many late antique traditions into its own prophetology. In these Qur’anic accounts, vision delineates a boundary between God and man. However, prophetic authority is based upon the prophet’s ability to see – either God, or facets of the Unseen. Thus, the Qur’an presents a creative tension: Muhammad’s humanity seems to preclude vision of God; yet, his prophetic superiority seems to affirm a more authentic vision of God than those of other prophets (e.g., Q 53, 81).

Eric_DeVilliers_HeadshotEric DeVilliers hails from Fredericksburg, Virginia. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Notre Dame, specializing in Qur’anic studies and Islamic theology. His dissertation investigates the roots and significance of the controversy surrounding the vision of God (ru’yat Allah) from Late Antiquity to the early Islamic period. He is currently performing research in Cairo on a Fulbright student research grant that explores the topic of the vision of God in the Kalām tradition.

Want to try your hand at next year’s Andrew Rippin Best Paper Prize? Submit your proposals for the Call for Papers: IQSA Annual Meeting 2023 to be held in San Antonio, Texas this November!

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2023. All rights reserved.

IQSA On-Demand!

Screen Shot 2021-09-29 at 11.29.34 AMThe International Qur’anic Studies Association offers a variety of traditional resources to further its mission, including academic journals, book reviews, and collected works; but did you know that IQSA also has a collection of video content?

In the recent shift to digital scholarship, IQSA sponsored new series of virtual seminars to continue building bridges amongst scholars across the globe in Qur’anic Studies. Some examples include the IQSA Corona Qur’an Seminars, held in conjunction with the University of Notre Dame at the height of the pandemic, and the Qur’anic Studies in Indonesia series hosted jointly by IQSA and the Indonesian Qur’anic Studies Association (AIAT).

Interested? View these videos for free from the comfort of your home at, or on IQSA’s YouTube page!

Podcast: Professor Shady Nasser on the Transmission of the Qur’an

The Minding Scripture podcast, hosted by IQSA’s own Gabriel Reynolds, recently featured an interview with Professor Shady Nasser on the transmission of the Qur’an.

Picture1Description: While you might be aware of Islamic tradition regarding the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, have you ever wondered how it was recorded and transmitted? Did Muhammad write this divine message down, or did transmission take place via another method? In this episode, our hosts Gabriel Reynolds, Francesca Murphy, and Mun’im Sirry are joined by Professor Shady H. Nasser, associate professor of Arabic Studies at Harvard. Professor Nasser specializes in Near Eastern civilizations, linguistic studies, and transmission and reception of Qur’anic texts; he’ll provide his understanding of the variant readings which have arisen within Islamic tradition.”

Readers interested in this podcast can listen here. Be sure to check out the many intriguing podcasts available at Minding Scripture, including many on the Qur’an.

Content courtesy of the Minding Scripture Podcast website.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2020. All rights reserved.

IQSA Corona Qur’an Seminars on Zoom (#IQSAZoom)

Staring last week, IQSA began its sponsorship of new weekly online (Zoom) seminars in conjunction with the University of Notre Dame to bring scholars and students of the Qur’an together at a time when many are in social isolation. These seminars are part of IQSA’s larger mission to advance “Cutting edge, intellectually rigorous, academic research on the Qurʾan” and to be “a bridge between different global communities of Qurʾanic scholarship.”  Seminars are open to the public and all are welcome to join the meetings, although at this time we strongly encourage you to take a moment to join IQSA/renew your membership.

#IQSAZoom seminars, held at 11am EDT/New York time, will involve both a lecture and time for open discussion. To register for the seminars (free but required) visit…/world-religions-world-c…/seminars/. Seminars will be recorded and posted to IQSA’s youtube channel (IQSA Online). We encourage all to continue the discussion on social media using the hashtag #IQSAZoom.

Iqsa Corona

The inaugural #IQSAZoom seminar was offered last Thursday by Dr. Hythem Sidky on the topic “Codex Damascensis and the Evolution of the Syrian Reading Tradition.” If you didn’t catch it live, check out the seminar online!

This following week on Thursday April 16, Gabriel Said Reynolds will present “Perish the Human! On Sinfulness and Satan in the Qur’an.” Register for this session in advance to watch live!

#IQSAZoom seminars, held at 11am EDT/New York time will involve both a lecture and time for open discussion.  Seminars will be recorded and posted to IQSA’s youtube channel.  We encourage all to continue the discussion on social media using the hashtag #IQSAZoom.

Stay tuned for updates on future seminars on the IQSA Blog and Twitter!

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2020. All rights reserved.


Psychological Readings of the Qurʾan

By Gabriel Said Reynolds (University of Notre Dame) 


In his 1996 work Dieu et l’homme dans le Coran the French Dominican scholar Jacques Jomier devotes a chapter to ”The Psychological Certainty of Muslims” (“La certitude psychologique du musulman”).  The premise of this chapter is that Muslims are especially confident of the truth of their faith.  Jomier explains:

In many circumstances Muslims appear sure of their faith, persuaded that it is self-evident, even suspecting (in certain extreme cases) that those who do not share their faith are insincere.[1]


From Jomier’s perspective some Muslims are so certain of their religion that they imagine even non-Muslims secretly recognize the truth of Islam (he finds this idea implicit in a verse of the Qurʾan– Q 2:42 – which tells the Jews not to conceal the truth that they know).  Jomier presumably developed his notion regarding “the psychological certainty” of Muslims from his many years living in Egypt (1945-1981).  He does not, however, seek to prove this notion in any systematic way.

Are Muslims in fact especially “certain” of their religion?  Pew has found (in a 2011 survey) that only 35% of American Muslims answered yes to the proposition “Your religion is the one true faith” (compared to 30% of American Christians).[2]  It may be that a higher percentage of Muslims from Islamic countries such as Egypt would answer yes to this question.  Pew did not ask the same question when it surveyed Egyptian Muslims in 2012.  In that survey, however, Pew did find that 78% of Egyptian Muslims report that “there is only one true way” to interpret the teachings of Islam, a result which may correspond, indirectly, with Jomier’s notion of certainty.[3]

In any case, my point here is not to prove or disprove Jomier’s notion of the “psychological certainty of Muslims.”  Instead I’d like to draw attention to his explanation for this supposed phenomenon.  According to Jomier there is something in the nature of the Qurʾan itself which engenders certainty.  Jomier points to the simplicity and binarity of the Qurʾanic style.  The Qurʾan, he argues, leaves the audience with only two stark choices: submission to God or rebellion against Him.  Commenting on Qurʾan 6:50 (where the Prophet is commanded to say, “Can the blind and the seeing be deemed equal? Will you not, then, take thought?”), Jomier observes, “All of one’s attention is drawn to the question regarding which no doubt is possible.”[4]  Elsewhere he describes the “binary” style of the Qurʾan in more general terms: “There is God or there is not God, there is the blind and the seeing, truth and falsehood, the believer and the unbeliever, the good to do and the evil to avoid, paradise and hell.”[5]

Jomier’s efforts to describe how the rhetorical turns of the Qurʾan engender psychological certainty are taken up in a second French language work: L’action psychologique dans le Coran, “Psychological Action [or Operation] in the Qurʾan” by Dominique and Marie-Therèse Urvoy.[6]  The Urvoys develop the ideas of Jomier still further, attempting to identify certain “strategies” of the Qurʾan’s rhetoric, strategies intentionally deployed to win the unyielding allegiance of its audience.  Under the rubric of “Subliminal Processes” in the Qurʾan the Urvoys include something they name the “subtle insertion” (literally, “sliding in,” Fr. “glissement”) of secondary messages.  They argue that the Qurʾan has a way of adding in “almost insidiously” a secondary message, parallel to the development of a principal theme, in a manner which is “practically subliminal.”[7]  The ideas of the Urvoys far exceed a simply analysis of the Qurʾan’s logical strategies of argumentation, such as that found in Rosalind Ward Gwynne’s Logic, Rhetoric, and Legal Reasoning in the Qurʾan.[8]  Indeed the Urvoys seem to go further still than Jomier in insisting that the Qurʾan’s author intentionally (“almost insidiously”) imbedded certain patterns in the text in order to win total devotion from his audience.

The studies of Jomier and the Urvoys on these matters are fundamentally problematic.  They assign a contrived motive to the Qurʾanic author which exceeds simple argumentation.  In addition they underestimate the intellectual independence of the Qurʾan’s audience.

Still it is worth noting that their arguments – strangely enough – have certain connections to Islamic apologetical works which are meant to underline the supposed brilliance of Qurʾanic rhetoric.  Notably Jomier was particularly interested in the arguments of Muhammad Ahmad Khalafallah (d. 1991), the author of the well-known 1951 work al-Fann al-qasasi fi al-Qurʾan al-karim, “Narrative Art in the Noble Qurʾan.”  Jomier was one of the first scholars to draw attention to this work – and to the controversy which it engendered — in a long 1954 article entitled “Quelques positions actuelles de l’exégèse coranique en Egypte révélées par une polémique récente.”[9]  As Jomier notes, the original form of Khalafallah’s work – that is, his dissertation at King Fuʾad University (now the University of Cairo) – was entitled Min asrar al-iʿjaz, “On the Secrets of [the Qurʾan’s] Inimitability.”  Khalafallah originally wrote this study of Qurʾanic “inimitability” to combat the views of “atheists, Orientalists, and missionaries.”[10]

In order to wage this combat Khalafallah sought to show that the Qurʾan need not be judged by the historical accuracy of the stories which it tells, since those stories were written not with the goal of relating “historical truth” but rather “literary truth” (al-aqīqa al-adabiyya).[11]  In other words, from his perspective the Qurʾan relates stories in a way meant to convince its audience of its message, and in a special way to inspire fear and piety among them.  At one point Khalafallah comments that the Qurʾan’s stories appeal to the “emotional logic” (manṭiq al-ʿaṭifa) of its audience, and not to the “logic of intellectual reflection” (manṭiq al-naẓar al-ʿaqli).[12]  This does not take us very far from the Urvoys’ notion of the Qurʾan’s psychological “action.”

A more recent pious exploration of the Qurʾan’s supposed ability to convince or enrapture its audience is found in Navid Kermani’s God is Beautiful.[13]  Kermani, who focuses on the reception history of the Qurʾān, describes in vivid detail Islamic stories meant to redound to the doctrine of Qurʾanic inimitability.  He is particularly interested in those traditions which speak of pious believers who were so affected by hearing the Qurʾan that they were struck down and died.[14]  Now Kermani does not imagine that his readers will all accept the idea of Qurʾanic inimitability.  As he puts it, Kermani does not expect every reader to “sway to the rhythm of the Qurʾān recitations.”[15]  He does, however, seem convinced that there is something remarkable in Qurʾanic rhetoric, and in its sound, which leads its audience to be swept away.  At the same time Kermani does recognize that there are certain historical and sectarian factors which led to the development of the Islamic doctrine of the Qurʾan’s inimitability.[16]

Still it seems to me that the critical works of Jomier and the Urvoys, and the more apologetical works of Khalafallah and Kermani are two sides of the same coin.  The notion that there is something contrived, magical, or miraculous in Qurʾanic rhetoric that overwhelms its audience is simplistic.  Of course there are many pious Muslims (and non-Muslims) who are enthralled with the rhetoric of the Qurʾan.  Some converts attribute their conversions to the qualities of the Qurʾan (ʿUmar, the second caliph, is said to have accepted Islam after hearing a recitation of the Qurʾan).  But others are not.  One of the Prophet’s own scribes, Ibn Abi Sarh, is said to have left the Prophet’s service, and Islam, when he came to believe that his messages did not come from God.  Christians and other non-Muslims are compelled in the Islamic world to hear the Qurʾan time and again over loudspeakers and yet still do not convert to Islam.

In other words, religious convictions cannot be attributed simply to the logic, rhetoric, or aesthetics of a scripture.  Instead such convictions are connected to a social context.  Religious “certainty” is necessarily linked to the experience of belonging which believers find in a community of faith.  “Certainty” is accordingly found not only with Muslims but presumably found also with others – such as evangelical Christians or Latter Day Saints – from groups in which esprit de corps (or ʿasabiyya) is strong.  It is also connected to the efforts of missionaries (or “daʿwa practitioners”) whose vocation is to increase devotion among believers while bringing unbelievers into the fold.  In other words, the Qurʾan, like other scriptures, does not find its meaning in a vacuum.  The Qurʾan has meaning in context.

[1] J. Jomier, Dieu et l’homme dans le Coran (Paris : Cerf, 1996), 161.



[4] Jomier, 170.

[5] Jomier, 168.

[6] Paris : Cerf, 2007.

[7] Urvoy and Urvoy, 71.

[8] London: Routledge, 2004.

[9] MIDEO 1 (1954), (39-72), 66.

[10] J. Jomier, “Quelques positions actuelles de l’exégèse coranique en Egypte révélées par une polémique récente (1947-51),” MIDEO 1 (1954), (39-72), 66 .  See M.A. Khalafallah, Al-Fann al-qasasi fi al-Qurʾan al-karim, 4th edition (First edition 1951) (London: Al-Intishar al-ʿArabi, 1999),  10.

[11] The term “literary truth,” however, would disappear from the printed version of Khalafallah’s work.  See Jomier, 63.

[12] Al-Fann, 155.

[13] N. Kermani, God is Beautiful, trans. T. Crawford (Maldin, MA: Polity, 2015).  Original German: Gott ist schön (Munich: Beck, 1999).

[14] In particular he focuses on the work of al-Thaʿlabi (d. 427/1035): Qatlā al-qurʾān, ed. Nāṣir b. Muḥammad al-Manīʿ (Riyadh : Maktabat al-ʿUbaykān, 2008).

[15] Kermani, 251.

[16] See Kermani, 196.




© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2017. All rights reserved.

Video Lecture: “How (Not) to Translate the Qur’an”

The public lecture “How (Not) to Translate the Qur’an,” by Dr. Shawkat Toorawa—an event hosted by the Qur’an Seminar project earlier this year—can be viewed online in its entirety here.

Toorawa is associate professor of Arabic Literature and Islamic Studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. His areas of specialty are medieval Arabic literature and modern poetry. He has a special interest in the lexicon of the Qur’an and is currently preparing a critical edition of the Shifa’ al-‘alil by the eighteenth-century belletrist Azad Bilgrami. For a selection of books that Toorawa has authored and edited, see here.

The Qur’an Seminar is an academic project dedicated to advancing scholarly understanding of the Qur’anic text. The project—led by IQSA codirector Gabriel Said Reynolds and steering committee member Mehdi Azaiez—involves the collaboration of scholars worldwide, a series of public lectures by leading Muslim intellectuals, and the production of an innovative commentary on fifty central Qurʾanic passages. It is funded by a Sawyer Seminar grant of the Mellon Foundation and hosted by the University of Notre Dame.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2013. All rights reserved.

Qur’anic Studies around the World

By Emran El-Badawi

There are several research projects, journals, conferences and other initiatives dedicated to the academic study of the Qur’an around the world. One of IQSA’s goals is to give scholars from these different international initiatives the opportunity to meet regularly.

The Qur’an Seminar meets 5 times throughout 2012-13 at the University of Notre Dame. This conference series is directed by Gabriel Reynolds (associate professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame) and Mehdi Azaiez (PhD, Université Aix-Provence). The seminar allows invited participants to share their insights on 50 central passages distributed throughout the Qur’an text. The work of the participants will eventually be collected, edited and published. See in relation the Qur’an in Its Historical Context.

The Corpus Coranicum is a project directed by Angelika Neuwirth (professor of Semitic and Arabic Studies, Freie Universität Berlin) and Michael Marx, and it belongs to the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Included in the work of the Corpus Coranicum is research on the paleography and intertextuality of the Qur’an.

Among the academic journals in this area is the Journal of Qur’anic Studies (JQS), whose editor in chief is M.A.S. Abdel Haleem (professor of Islamic Studies, School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London). Another biennial journal is Al-Bayan: Journal of Qur’an and Hadith Studies, whose editor in chief is Faisal Bin Ahmad Shah (senior lecturer, al-Qur’an & al-Hadith Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya).

The Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’an (EIQ) is a seven volume reference work that originated as a joint academic venture between the Center for Islam and Science, Canada and the Society for Qur’anic Studies, Pakistan. Among other things, EIQ preserves centuries worth of classical Islamic scholarship on the Qur’an. This publication is not related to the Encyclopedia of the Qur’an (EQ) published by E.J. Brill.

The International Institute of Qur’anic Studies (IIQS), which was co-founded by H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid and Dr. Syafi’i Ma’arif, explores the intersection between modern scholarship and the study of the Qur’an in Indonesia. The institute belongs to the organization LibForAll, chaired by Holland Taylor, and has worked with the late Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (d. 2010).

For more information on Qur’anic Studies around the world visit the External Resources link.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2012. All rights reserved.