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Department of Qur’anic studies (The Institute of Ismaili Studies)

Department of Qur'anic studies (The Institute of Ismaili (...)

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Qur’anic Studies is part of the Institute’s Department of Academic Research and Publications. The IIS embarked on Qur’anic studies in 2000 with a view to promoting scholarship on the plurality of traditions inspired by the Holy Qur’an and developed throughout Muslim history, up to the present time. By conducting research into and teaching about these interpretive traditions, the Institute aims to advance knowledge about the entire spectrum of traditional sources and a general understanding of the plurality of interpretations that have been produced by Muslims throughout history as well as of the various contexts, and types of methodology that have shaped those interpretations.

Les objectifs

The objectives of Qur’anic Studies at the IIS are to:

  • Promote scholarship and contribute to the academic field of Qur’anic studies, inviting scholars in the field to participate in academic projects and activities;
  • Produce publications and promote other scholarly activities, such as conferences, of the highest academic standard, based on the principles of academic rigour, objectivity and neutrality;
  • Explore the plurality of interpretations offered by Muslims as a means to understanding the complexities of Muslim intellectual history.
  • Study the historical context of the Holy Qur’an and it’s interpretations with a view to understanding the intellectual, ethical, social and historical factors that gave rise to them.


Research seminars and exploratory workshops are crucial tools for engaging the interest and skills of specialist scholars. They provide a forum in which topics of interest, within the field of Qur’anic studies, may be discussed and out of which new ideas and proposals for future research may emerge. Qur’anic Studies regularly organises workshops and seminars.

Currently, Qur’anic Studies has six full time researchers, each with wide-ranging interests.

Dr Omar Alí-de-Unzaga
Research interests: Epistles of the Pure Brethren (Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa), for which a book is in progess; interaction between philosophy and the interpretation of the Qur’an between the tenth and eleventh centuries; Isma’ili ta’wil.

Dr Karen Bauer
Research interests: Islamic intellectual and social history, particularly gender studies and the interpretation of the Qur’an; tracing, contextualizing, and historicising debates in Qur’an commentaries; analysing how genre boundaries, audience, and context (both social and intellectual) affect the style and content of texts.

Dr Stephen Burge
Research interests: The study of angels in Islam, focusing on their roles in the Qur’an and the Hadith; the great fifteenth century polymath, Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505); popular religion; the relationships between Judaism, Christianity and Islam; comparative philology; lexicography and codicology.

Dr Alessandro Cancian
Research Interests: the intellectual history of Shi’ism, Shi’i Sufims in early modern times, the anthropology of Islam, Shi’ism and modern Iran.

Dr Asma Hilali
Research Interests: The transmission of religious texts, Qur’an and hadith and “intermediary genres” during the first six centuries of Islam, the elaboration of the hadith sciences in the 4th/10th century and the canonisation of the religious genres, the transformation of the religious texts and the institutions of transmission (of knowledge “‘Ilm”) between the 4th/10th and the 6th/12th century.

Dr Toby Mayer
Research interests: Currently translating Sayyid Haydar Amuli’s al-Muhit al-A’zam, a remarkable, mystical commentary on the Qur’an which combines the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi with Twelver Shi’ism; also working on the major Sufi commentary associated with the early masters of the Kubrawi order, the Ta’wilat Najmiyya.