Khalil Andani (PhD Candidate, Harvard University) will deliver a public academic lecture entitled “The Speaking Qur’an: Revelation in Sunni and Shia Islam” at UT Austin on April 7, 2017. Further information is below.
Date/Time: Friday, April 7, 2:00 PM
Location: College of Liberal Arts Building 0.102
Host: Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas – Austin: https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/mes/
Summary of Lecture:
What is the Qur’an and how was it revealed to Prophet Muhammad? Throughout history, Muslims of different communities of interpretation, including Sunni, Shia, and Sufi affiliations, have interpreted the Qur’an in a diversity of ways. However, it is little known that there are different Muslim views about the actual process of the Revelation of the Qur’an. This presentation discusses two different viewpoints about Revelation in Islam: the Sunni view and the Shia Ismaili view.
To begin, the presentation examines what the Qur’an actually says about itself and the process of revelation, arguing that “kitab” in the Qur’anic context does not mean “book”, but rather, “divinely-prescribed guidance” and that the Qur’anic idea of “wahy” means “divine inspiration” instead of the verbatim “dictation” of Arabic verses to the Prophet. In the lifetime of the early community of believers, the Qur’anic revelation was a dynamic process in history, that was also inseparable from the Prophet Muhammad since divine inspiration extended to the Prophet’s verbal guidance as well. Accordingly, the Qur’an presents itself as a verbal, historical and situational “rendering” (tanzil, tafsil) in Arabic of a transcendent divine repository of knowledge called “al-Kitab.”
Following the Prophet’s death, the Qur’an was compiled and came to be re-defined among proto-Sunni exegetes as a “book” pre-existing in a heavenly tablet before being “dictated” to the Prophet, thus demarcating the Qur’an’s status from that of Prophet Muhammad. This evolved into the standard Sunni doctrine of “verbal revelation” where the Angel Gabriel dictates the Arabic Qur’an to the Prophet who then recites it to his community. This proto-Sunni view of the Qur’an was further sublimated during the 9th century debates over whether the Qur’an was created or uncreated, leading to the consolidation of the doctrine of the Qur’an as God’s Uncreated Speech (kalam) in the 11th century.
The presentation then discusses how Shia Ismaili Muslim thinkers conceived the revelation of the Qur’an, looking at the views of the 14th Ismaili Imam al-Mu‘izz (d. 975) and several Ismaili philosophers including Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani (d. ca. 971), Jafar b. Mansur al-Yaman (d. ca. 960), and Nasir-i Khusraw (d. ca. 1088). According to these Shia Ismaili thinkers, the Prophet Muhammad was a divinely-inspired human being who possessed a superior spiritual faculty called the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, the Prophet received divine inspiration (wahy, ta’yid) from a transcendent celestial “Pre-Text” in a spiritual and luminous form and was then responsible for composing the Arabic Qur’an as a symbolic revelatory expression (tanzil) of divine inspiration in the form of miraculous speech.
Khalil Andani is a 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).
Previously on Ismailimail…