Friday, 2 October: Introducing tafsir; theology in tafsir

10:00 – 12:00 Session 1: Mystical methods /Ash’ari methods. Discussant: Kristin Sands

10:00 Martin Nguyen

Al-Huruf al-muqatta’a in al-Qushayri’s Lata’if al-Isharat: A case study in source tracing and exegetical method

This paper examines the nature of the methods of and sources for al-Qushayri’s mystical commentary on the Qur'an through his interpretation of a specific scriptural phenomenon.

11:00 Tariq Jaffer

The methodological innovations of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1210)

This paper examines al-Razi’s methods of exegesis, paying particular attention to the methodological developments within the Ash'ari tradition, in which al-Razi stands, with a view to discerning the methods, techniques, and concepts that al-Razi used to resolve the intellectual tensions and conflicts within medieval Islam.

12:00-1:00 Lecture by Andrew Rippin

Interpreting Interpretation: understanding Muslim exegesis

2:00 – 4:00 Session 2: Mu'tazili Exegesis. Discussant: Toby Mayer

2:00 Devin Stewart

The avoidance of Rhyme and Literary Form as Hermeneutic Categories in al-Zamakhshari’s al-Kashshaf

This paper takes a reading of the Kashshaf with an eye to passages that can be explained as instances of poetic license, to allow a more comprehensive assessment of al-Zamakhshari’s treatment of rhyme and rhythm as hermeneutical categories and his ideological commitment on this issue, while providing a better understanding of his exegetical method in general.

3:00 Suleiman Mourad

The exegete and the Divine text: Mu’tazili scriptural Hermeneutics according to al-Hakim al-Jishumi (s. 494/1101)

This paper examines al-Jishumi's methods and approach to scriptural exegesis, with particular emphasis on the role assigned to the exegete in searching for the proper understanding of the text, and whether scriptural hermeneutics is bound by established traditions or left to the exegete’s independent rational reasoning.

4:15 – 6:15 Session 3: The purpose of tafsir according to the exegetes. Discussant: Jamal Elias

4:15 Walid Saleh

The Basit introduction, an edition and a study

The introduction to al-Basit, the major work of al-Wahidi, has not been edited or studied before. This is a critical edition and a first attempt at understanding the significance of this introduction and its position in the history of tafsir.

5:15 Karen Bauer

Canon vs. Common Sense in Tafsir of the 10th – 12th centuries

This paper analyzes how exegetes claim to use common sense in their interpretations of the Qur’an, and explores the question of learned judgment and its place in the Qur’an commentary.

Saturday, 3 October: Early Exegesis, Hadiths in Exegesis, and Shi'i Exegesis

10:00 – 12:00 Session 4: Early Exegesis. Discussant: Gerald Hawting

10:00 Andrew Rippin

The construction of the Arabian historical context in the interpretation of the Qur’an

This paper looks at this specific way in which classical Muslim sources use the historical context of 7th century Arabia as an interpretational tool in order to understand the Qur’an.

11:00 Michael Pregill

Re-evaluating Criteria for the Dating of Qur'an Commentary: Tafsir Ibn cAbbas and Tafsir Muqatil

This paper compares the methods and substance of exegesis in Tafsir Ibn cAbbas / Tafsir al-Kalbi with Tafsir Muqatil. In addition to other factors, the agreement between them suggests that Tafsir Ibn cAbbas may in fact be a reliable representation of prevailing currents of interpretation in al-Kalbi’s time.

1:30 – 3:30 Session 5: Hadiths in Tafsir. Discussant: Jamal Elias

1:30 Roberto Tottoli

Methods and Contexts in the use of Hadiths and Traditions in Classical Tafsir literature

The aim of this paper is to articulate a first analysis of the use of hadith reports and traditions in tafsir literature, showing the methodology by which the mufassirun include or do not include reports, which versions between those at their disposal they use, and how they discuss the material.

2:30 Stephen Burge

Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, the Mu'awwidhatan and Modes of Exegesis

This paper will explore al-Suyuti's methods of tafsir, through an analysis of the way in which he uses hadith and different modes of exegesis in his exegetical works. The paper will also raise the issue of the influence of a work’s intended audience on material included in a tafsir.

3:45 – 5:45 Session 6: Shi'i Exegesis. Discussant: Kristin Sands

3:45 Robert Gleave

The methods of exegesis attributed to the Shi’i Imams

This paper will survey the reported explicitly hermeneutical pronouncements of the Imams and compare them to the reported instances of exegetical practice by the Imams – within the akhbar, the various tafsirs of the Imams, and other early documents.

4:45 Todd Lawson

Typological Figuration and the Generation of meaning in scriptural commentary: the pursuit of the esoteric

This paper will focus on the sources and inspiration for the typological approach to reading scripture in Islam, beginning with the Qur’an itself as both scripture and exegesis, typological reading in early tafsir, Isma'ili scriptural commentary, and later Sufi and Imami exegesis.

Sunday, 4 October: Esoteric and Exoteric; Generating a Timeline for Exegesis

10:00 – 12:00 Session 7: Esoteric and Exoteric. Discussant: Kristin Sands.

10:00 Ludmila Zamah

Master of the Obvious: Understanding Zahir Interpretations in Qur'anic Exegesis

This paper examines the use of the term zahir in Qur'anic exegesis and equivalent terms in biblical exegesis, to gain a more nuanced understanding of what medieval exegetes thought their scriptures literally meant.

11:00 Feras Hamza

Questioning ‘the exoteric’ and ‘the esoteric’: organising the hermeneutical taxonomy

This paper questions the categories of ‘esoteric’ and ‘exoteric’, particularly with regard to the methods and content of works of exegesis: are certain methods exclusively esoteric, or are they shared by authors of esoteric and exoteric texts alike?

1:30 – 4:00 Session 8: Generating a Timeline for Tafsir. Discussant: Jamal Elias

1:30 Claude Gilliot

The classification, evolution, and development of the genre of tafsir


Omar Alí-de-Unzaga is Academic Co-ordinator of Qur’anic Studies at The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Karen Bauer is a Research Associate in Qur’anic Studies at The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Stephen Burge is a Research Associate in Qur’anic Studies at The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Jamal Elias is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Claude Gilliot is Professor Emeritus at Université de Provence Aix-en-Provence.

Robert Gleave is Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Exeter.

Feras Hamza is Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai.

Gerald Hawting is Emeritus Professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Tariq Jaffer is Assistant Professor in Religion at Amherst College.

Todd Lawson is Professor in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto.

Toby Mayer is a Research Associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Suleiman A. Mourad is Associate Professor of Religion at Smith College.

Martin Nguyen is Assistant Professor of Islam at Fairfield University.

Michael Pregill is Assistant Professor in Religious Studies at Elon University.

Andrew Rippin is Professor of History at the University of Victoria.

Walid Saleh is Associate Professor of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto.

Kristin Sands is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Sarah Lawrence College.

Devin Stewart is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University.

Roberto Tottoli is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at University of Naples.

Ludmila Zamah is Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Winnipeg.