Review of Qur’anic Research, Vol. 3 no.5 (2017)

Review of Qur’anic Research, Vol. 3 no.5 (2017)

In the latest installment of the Review of Qur’anic Research (Vol. 4, no.5), Vanessa De Gifis (Wayne State University) reviews Tafsīr and Islamic Intellectual History (London: Oxford University Press/Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2014), a collection of studies edited by Andreas Görke and Johanna Pink. In this volume, Görke and Pink pose an essential inquiry about tafsīr: “What kind of disciplinary, dogmatic, sectarian, chronological or regional boundaries are there, how are they affirmed and how are they permeated, transgressed, or shifted?” (11). The overall claim of TIIH is that a variety of criteria may be useful to make sense of the external (definitional) and internal (taxonomical) boundaries of tafsīr, contingent upon the particular aspects of qurʾānic interpretation with which researchers are concerned.

tafsir and islamic


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

Write for us!

New coordinator at the IQSA blog

From this week on, the IQSA blog will have a new coordinator, Mehdy Shaddel, an independent scholar based in Iran, with interests in the Qur’an, late-ancient 1024px-Folio_Blue_Quran_Met_2004.88religion, and early Islamic history. The previous coordinator, Professor Vanessa De Gifis of the Wayne State University, is now the co-editor of our Journal, JIQSA. We would like to thank Professor De Gifis on behalf of the IQSA community for her efforts during her tenure as blog coordinator.

Share your research

If you are undertaking research as a faculty member or post-doc, working on a new project as a graduate student, or would like to share information about an upcoming Qur’an related conference, workshop or service, please consider writing a blog post for us. Posts in languages other than English are acceptable. Blog contributions should be sent to Mehdy Shaddel ( Scholarly reviews should be submitted to RQR and academic articles to JIQSA.

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IQSA is committed to growing Qur’anic scholarship and creating a community where scholars can collaborate, network, and participate in lively discussions. To ensure IQSA’s continued growth, make a commitment and become a member. IQSA members enjoy exclusive access to Review of Qur’anic Research (RQR), Qur’an Seminar, membership directory, job board, the Journal of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (JIQSA), and more.

IQSA’s New Blog Coordinator Invites Submissions

VDG profile with tafsirGreetings! My name is Vanessa De Gifis, and I pleased to introduce myself as the new blog coordinator for IQSA. I earned my Ph.D. in Islamic thought from the University of Chicago, and I am presently Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, where I teach (among other things) a course on the Qur’an and tafsir. My own research takes place at the interface between thematic study of the Qur’an text and study of Qur’anic themes in later Islamic thought. My recent book, Shaping a Qur’anic Worldview (Routledge, 2014), is the first sustained analysis of Qur’anic referencing in the political rhetoric of the classical Caliphate. Currently my research digs deeper into the scriptural underpinnings of Muslim moral thought by taking a closer look at one of the most pervasive motifs in the Qur’an and Muslim socio-political discourse, that of divine “favor,” with an eye to better understanding the dynamics of its interpretation and ideological use.

The IQSA blog has become a popular and authoritative venue for showcasing new developments in Qur’anic studies, and I am excited to support its ongoing vitality. With that in mind, I welcome blog submissions from all members of our scholarly community. If you are interested in sharing an aspect of your current research, reviewing a new publication, or reporting on an event in Qur’anic studies, please feel free to email me at Blog entries are typically about 500 words, and the blog format is flexible. I hope to hear from you!

If you have not already become an IQSA member, please join us! Membership is free for 2014. Simply submit a Membership Form here

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2014. All rights reserved.

New book: Shaping a Qur’anic Worldview

By Vanessa De Gifis*

It is commonplace in Islamic studies to acknowledge, in a general or clichéd way, that the Qur’an has an influence on Islamic thought and society. My new book, Shaping a Qurʾānic Worldview, was motivated by the desire to better understand the practical mechanisms by which Muslims bring the Qur’an to bear on real-world decision making. It is the first book to systematically examine references to the Qur’an in early medieval Islamic politics in light of classical Arabic-Islamic rhe9780415735964torical and grammatical-semantic theories.

Classical theoretical considerations of rhetorical circumstance, author-audience interlocution, and grammatical-semantic features inform my own approach to correlating the circumstances and techniques of Qur’anic referencing. I deploy the basic interrogatives─when, who, what, where, how, and why─that correspond to distinct yet interrelated areas of authorial deliberation manifested in political texts:

  • When does Qur’anic referencing occur?
  • Who are the interlocutors?
  • What Qur’anic elements (verses, themes, literary forms) appear?
  • Where along the rhetorical trajectory do Qur’anic elements appear?
  • How are Qur’anic elements grammatically rendered and framed?
  • Why are Qur’anic references logically or rhetorically persuasive?

To illustrate the critical connections between the formal techniques of Qur’anic referencing and the socio-historical circumstances of their execution, the book presents a case study of Arabic texts attributed to the ʿAbbāsid Caliph al-Maʾmūn (r. 813-833 C.E.), who is famous for entwining scriptural theology and political machination in his controversial “test” (mihna) to enforce the doctrine of the createdness of the Qur’an, and whose rule coincided with the maturation of classical Islamic political thought and literary culture. Rhetorical analysis reveals how Qur’anic referencing functions as analogical exegesis, whereby verses in the Qur’an are reinterpreted through the lens of subjective experience, and at the same time socio-historical experiences are understood in Qur’anic terms. Through strategic deployment of scriptural references within the logical scheme of rhetorical argument, the Caliph constructs moral analogies between paradigmatic characters in the Qur’an and people in his social milieu, and situates himself as a pivotal moral reformer and agent of divine command, in order to persuade his audiences of the necessity of the Caliphate and the religio-moral imperative of obedience to his authority.

The Maʾmūnid case study contains classical examples of ubiquitous themes and techniques of Qur’anic referencing, indicative of the nature and function of the phenomenon across historical periods. Exploring the use of the Qur’an in rhetorical argument is especially apt to discern inter-subjective, negotiated understandings of the Qur’an, in a mode of interpretation that is inherently and deliberately more dialogical than conventional exegetical literature. My aim with the book is to contribute to ongoing scholarly inquiries about the rhetorical features of the Qur’anic corpus and to stimulate broader conversations about the practical impact of the Qur’an on the articulation of distinctly Islamic moral values and historical vision.

*DeGifis is Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies and Graduate Advisor for Near Eastern Languages at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Her book, Shaping a Qurʾānic Worldview, will be available in e-book form on April 11, 2014. She welcomes correspondence at

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2014. All rights reserved.