Workshop Schedule

Qur'an commentaries: sources, methods and hermeneutics

Throughout Islamic history, Muslim scholars have attempted to convey the multiple meanings of the Qur'an’s verses to their contemporaries. One standard form of exegesis is the Qur'an commentary (referred to by a variety of terms in Arabic, including tafsir and ta'wil). Qur'an commentaries do not encompass the entire exegetical enterprise, for exegesis is arguably at the heart of work in almost every genre of Islamic text. Yet the study of the one genre solely dedicated to interpreting the Qur'an is an essential component of understanding the diversity and development of Islamic thought. Recent scholarly work in the field of Qur'anic exegesis has examined individual exegetes’ interpretations, methods, and hermeneutics. But many questions remain, particularly concerning the development of the genre as a whole, and the scholarly classification of its different aspects.

Some of these questions include: how do certain methods of interpretation change or remain constant through time? In what ways does context affect the writing of exegesis? How do the exegetes classify their work, and how is it classified by the later scholarly community? To answer these questions, and thus to properly trace the development of the genre, requires a study which is both broadly based, but deeply contextualized.

Such a study is too vast for any one scholar to undertake alone, which is why the Institute of Ismaili Studies sponsored a series of meetings for a select group of scholars of Qur'anic exegesis. The first was a pre-conference workshop, held at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). It was co-sponsored by the Qur'an group at the AAR. The second was a Seminar at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in October, 2009. The end result will be an edited volume focusing on the development of hermeneutics, methods, and techniques of interpretation in the genre of the Qur'anic commentary.

A workshop made up of three roundtable discussions held in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion (AAR)

Friday, 31 October 2008, 11:00 AM to 5:30 PM

Chicago Hilton Towers, Williford C. (3rd Floor)
Session M31-111

11:00 - 11:15 Opening remarksKaren Bauer, The Institute of Ismaili Studies

Moderator: Sebastian Guenther

12:45 - 2:00 Lunch

2:00 - 3:30 The development of hermeneutics and techniques of interpretation
Moderator: Jamal Elias
3:30 - 3:45 Break
Moderator: Kristin Sands

5:15 - 5:30 Closing Remarks: Gordon Newby, Chair of the Qur'an Group at the AAR

7:00 Reception for panel participants

8:00 Dinner for registered attendees
Co-sponsored by the Qur'an Group at the AAR and the Institute of Ismaili Studies