College of Liberal Arts

The Speaking Qur'an: Revelation in Sunni & Shi'a Islam

Friday Apr 7, 2017 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM | CLA 0.102

Many textbooks and academic studies on Muslim history and thought take it for granted that Muslims regard the Qur’an as God’s literal speech dictated verbatim to the Prophet Muhammad in Arabic. How this view became established and the possibility of other Islamic models of revelation require further study. This lecture, based on the presenter's dissertation research in progress, explores the development of different models of Qur’anic Revelation in Sunni and Shia Ismaili Islam. Beginning with the Qur’an’s self-definition, the lecture first discusses how recent Qur’anic studies scholarship shows that the earliest idea of revelation in terms of kitabtanzil, and wahy was a dynamic event inseparable from the Prophet and was far less structured than the later doctrine of “verbal dictation.” Subsequently, the lecture surveys key developments in how the notion of the Qur’an as a “book” pre-existing in the heavenly Tablet – which is then verbally “dictated” to the Prophet – became established in Sunni exegesis along with the doctrine of the Qur’an as Uncreated Divine Speech. The lecture then discusses an alternative understanding of Qur’anic revelation found among the 9th–11th century Shia Ismaili philosophers who recognize Divine guidance as continuing through a lineage of hereditary Imams descended from Prophet Muhammad. In Shia Ismaili thought, divine inspiration issues from and reveals a transcendent or celestial “Pre-Text”, the process of revelation (wahy) is spiritual and non-verbal, and the Prophet Muhammad plays a creative role in composing the Arabic Qur’an as oral prophetic speech.

Khalil Andani is an SSHRC Fellow and doctoral (Ph.D) candidate in Islamic studies at Harvard University focusing on Islamic theology, philosophy, and intellectual history and holds a Master of Theological Studies degree (MTS 2014) from Harvard Divinity School. His publications include a forthcoming article about the Ismaili influence on al-Ghazali's cosmology in the Oxford Journal of Islamic Studies, two peer-reviewed articles on the Survey of Ismaili Studies in Religion Compass, a chapter on Nasir-i Khusraw’s Ismaili philosophy in the The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Philosophy, and two articles comparing Ismaili cosmology and the Christian metaphysics of Meister Eckhart in Sacred Web. Khalil is also a Chartered Professional Accountant (CA-CPA) and has completed Bachelor of Mathematics (BMath) and Master of Accounting degrees at the University of Waterloo (2008).

Bookmark and Share