Approaches to the Qur’an in Contemporary Iran

Approaches to the Qur’aninfo-icon in Contemporary Iran
The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London
2nd Floor, Room 2.1
2–4 September 2013

Conference Description

This colloquium seeks to examine the plurality of approaches to the Qur’an in contemporary Iran. By bringing together specialists in early modern and contemporary Iran from various disciplines, ranging from the social sciences to Qur’anic studies, the colloquium draws as comprehensive as possible a picture of the various approaches to the Qur’an that have been adopted in Iran over the past 150 years. It spans the second half of the nineteenth century, when the intellectual drive that would breed the constitutional uprising was at its height, and the first decade of the twenty-first century, the period in which Iran has become one of the key arenas of religious, intellectual, political and social debate.

The Qur’an is a central reference for various levels of public discourse in Iran.As the founding scripture of Islam, it inevitably influences the expression of all aspects of Muslim life – religious, cultural and social. Its interpretation, in the form of tafsir as well as in other non-codified fashions, informs each denomination’s religious practice, establishes the boundaries of religious identity and shapes the character of each individual’s relationship with the divine and with society.

In a country such as Iran, where the majority of the population adheres to the Twelver school of Shi‘i Islam, the relationship between the Qur’an and culture is charged with peculiarities that have not yet been discussed, analysed and investigated comprehensively by specialists.Within Iranian society, the Qur’an’s script has been creatively used in the arts, its meaning has been employed by rival factions in political discourse, its depths have been explored by the mystics of every persuasion and its symbols have never ceased to permeate and influence, by devotion or by reaction, almost every kind of literary expression in the Persian language.

From the much debated and highly sensitive question of tahrif to the revival of Qur’anic studies in post-revolutionary Iran, Qur’anic concerns are at the forefront of contemporary life in Iran.There, the scripture is widely revered, and it has been extensively read, interpreted and translated. Its deployment has been varied: the Qur’an has been diversely used as a source of inspiration, carried as a banner, employed instrumentally by politicians, turned into a manifesto for the oppressed, and even criticised and dismissed.