Parution : Angelika Neuwirth, “Scripture, Poetry, and the Making of a Community. Reading the Qur’an as a Literary Text”, novembre 2014, Oxford University Press (Qur’anic Studies Series).


  • Offers a new methodological approach to the study of the Qur’an
  • Relocates the Qur’an within Late Antiquity
  • Contextualises the Qur’an’s heritage with both Biblical and Arab poetic heritageScripture, Poetry, and the Making of a Community Reading the Qur'an as a Literary Text

We are used to understanding the Qur’an as the ‘Islamic text’ par excellence, an assumption which, when viewed historically, is not evident at all. More than twenty years before it rose to the rank of Islamic Scripture, the Qur’an was an oral proclamation addressed by the Prophet Muhammad to pre-Islamic listeners, for the Muslim community had not yet been formed. We might best describe these listeners as individuals educated in late antique culture, be they Arab pagans familiar with the monotheistic religions of Judaism and Christianity or syncretists of these religions, or learned Jews and Christians whose presence is reflected in the Medinan suras. The interactive communication process between Muhammad and these groups brought about an epistemic turn in Arab Late Antiquity: with the Qur’anic discovery of writing as the ultimate authority, the nascent community attained a new ‘textual coherence’ where Scripture, with its valorisation of history and memory, was recognised as a guiding concept. It is within this new biblically imprinted world view that central principles and values of the pagan Arab milieu were debated. This process resulted in a twin achievement: the genesis of a new scripture and the emergence of a community. Two great traditions, then, the Biblical, transmitted by both Jews and Christians, and the local Arabic, represented in Ancient Arabic poetry, appear to have established the field of tension from which the Qur’an evolved; it is both Scripture and Poetry which have produced and shaped the new Muslim community.

Readership: Students and scholars of Qur’an and Qur’anic Exegesis; students and scholars of the history of Islam

Table of Contents

I: Frameworks
1: Not Eastern and not Western (lāsharqīyyatan wa-lāgharbīyyatan, Q. 24:35): Locating the Qur’an within the History of Scholarship
2: The Discovery of Writing in the Qur’an: Tracing an Epistemic Revolution in Late Antiquity
3: A Religious Transformation in Late Antiquity. From Tribal Genealogy to Divine Covenant: Qur’anic Refigurations of Pagan-Arab Ideals Based on Biblical Models
4: Glimpses of Paradise in the World and Lost Aspects of the World in the Hereafter: Two Qur’anic Re-readings of Biblical Psalms
II: The Liturgical Qur’an and the Emergence of the Community
5: Images and Metaphors in the Introductory Sections of the Early Meccan Suras
6: From Recitation through Liturgy to Canon: Notes on the Emergence of the Sura Composition and its Dissolution in the Course of the Development of Islamic Ritual
7: Referentiality and Textuality in Sūrat al-Hijr (Q. 15): Some Observations on the Qur anic Canonical Process and the Emergence of a Community
8: Sūrat al-Fātiha: Opening of the Textual Corpus of the Qur’an or Introit of the Prayer Service?
9: From the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Temple: Sūrat al-Isrāʾ, between Text and Commentary
10: The Discovery of Evil in the Qur’an?: Revisiting Qur’anic Versions of the Decalogue in the Context of Pagan-Arab Late Antiquity
III: Narrative Figures between the Bible and the Qur an
11: Crisis and Memory: The Qur’an’s Path towards Canonisation as Reflected in its Anthropogonic Accounts
12: Narrative as a Canonical Process: The Story of Moses Seen through the Evolving History of the Qur’an
13: Imagining Mary, Disputing Jesus: Reading Sūrat Maryam and Related Meccan Texts within the Qur’anic Communication Process
14: Mary and Jesus: Counterbalancing the Biblical Patriarchs: A Re-reading of Sūrat Maryam in Sūrat Āl ʿImrān (Q. 3:1 62)
15: Oral Scriptures in Contact: The Qur’anic Story of the Golden Calf and its Biblical Subtext between Narrative, Cult, and Inter-communal Debate
16: Myths and Legends in the Qur’an: An Itinerary through its Narrative Landscape

Author Information

Angelika Neuwirth, Professor of Arabic Studies, Freie Universität Berlin

Angelika Neuwirth was educated in Classics and Oriental Studies at German and international universities (Italy, Iran and Israel). She has taught at the Universities of Munich, Amman, Bamberg, and Cairo, and has held the Chair of Arabic Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin since 1991. From 1994 to 1999 she served as the director of the Orient-Institut der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft in Beirut and Istanbul. Her major fields of research are classical and modern Arabic literature and Arab Late Antiquity studies. In several recent publications, Professor Neuwirth has tried to vindicate the Qur’an as a Late Antique text, which—though deeply rooted in Arab culture—has contributed creatively to a number of major theological discourses. Professor Neuwirth has been acknowledged for her novel approach to interreligious studies by being bestowed several honorary doctorates, academy memberships and professional awards.

Source :

Hassan Bouali

Docteur en histoire médiévale de l'université Paris Nanterre.

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