April and May saw the last four lectures in the Qur’anic Studies Series, The Meaning of the Word: Lexicology and Tafsir. The series aimed to explore the ways in which different exegetes approached questions relating to the meaning of words in the Qur’an.
In April, Prof. Agostino Cilardo (University of Naples) presented a lecture entitled: ‘From Qur’an to Fiqh: Sunni and Shi‘i Tafsir of inheritance verses (Al-masa’il al-mulaqqaba)’ This paper provided a detailed analysis of the meanings of words in complex legal arguments related to Islamic inheritance law.
In May, Prof. Kees Versteegh (University of Nijmegen) discussed the relationship between lexicology and tafsīr in the early development of exegesis, in his paper ‘In search of the meaning of the text: The earliest Qur'anic commentaries’ Prof. Versteegh argued that discussions about what words meant were central to exegetical projects undertaken by figures such as Muqatil b. Sulayman (d. 150/767).
Prof. Stefan Wild (University of Bonn) approached the topic from a slightly different perspective, looking at the relationship between translation and exegesis in English translations of the Qur’an, in his lecture ‘The Qur’an and its translators’.
The final lecture was given by Prof. Claude Gilliot (University of Aix-en-Provence). Prof. Gilliot gave a paper entitled ‘The Use of Lexicography in the Great Qur’anic Commentary of al-Wahidi. This lecture compared the treatment of lexical material in al-Tabari (d. 310/923) and al-Wahidi (d. 468/1075), and Prof. Gilliot argued that the two exegetes had different perspectives on lexicology and used it in different ways, because of their contexts.
The aim of this project has been to gain an understanding of how exegetes used the meanings and interpretations of individual words to support theological world views. The project has involved sixteen different scholars, from Europe and North America. Although the project has focused entirely on lexicology - a subject with a very specific frame of reference - the project has shown that the meanings of words have provided an area of diverse approaches and exegetical uses. Some of these lectures were also recorded and will be available online.