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Contemplating the Qur’an (Tadabbur al-Qur’an) Conference: The Qur’an and the Reading of History (April 20-21 2015)

Contemplating the Qur'an (Tadabbur al-Qur'an) Conference: The (…)

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Howard Divinity School
Washington, DC
April 20-21, 2015

That is a community that has passed away. Theirs is what they earned and yours is what you earned. You will not be questioned about what they used to do. (Q 2:134)

A.L.R. These are the verses of the perspicuous Book. We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an, in order that you may learn wisdom. We do relate unto thee the most beautiful of stories, in that We reveal to thee this (portion of the) Qur’an: before this, thou too was among those who knew it not. (Q 12:1-3)

It is well known that the Qur’an is not a book of history and even its recounting of sacred history often flattens chronological time in order to bring together various prophetic figures, separated by centuries, into the moral discourse of a single surah. At the same time, however, the Qur’an is clear that stories of the past have lessons to teach. This conference seeks to examine the Qur’anic approach to telling the story of the past, the present and the future. Does the Qur’an suggest how stories of the past should be examined and analyzed , and how their relevance for the present and the future should be understood?

Islamic religious, social, and political discourse is often influenced by particular readings of pre-Islamic and early Islamic history, and contemporary debates within the Muslim world, and between the Muslim world and the West, are often based on different readings of this history. How does the Qur’an relate and examine different events during the time of the Prophet or of previous prophets and communities? Does the Qur’an indicate when such histories should be read as paradigmatic, and when they should be read as a cautionary tales? How does it suggest that histories may be used and misused? What should one do with contested or troubling histories?

To what extent is the Qur’anic view of history cyclical in nature (with human beings continuously repeating the religious errors of previous peoples) and to what extent is the Qur’anic conception of history unidirectional and transformative of the human condition?
How have attempts to historicize or re-historicize the Qur’anic verses as found in the classical tafsir literature or in contemporary Muslim and Western scholarship affected the reading of both Qur’an and religious history?

The organizers invite papers on these and other questions related to the Qur’an and the reading of history, including its social, political, legal, theological and philosophical significance.

Please send abstracts (max. 250 words) via email as a Word or PDF attachment to Abstracts must be received by Jan. 15, 2015 and should include contact information and institutional affiliation.