"Contemplating the Qur'an" Conference

QuranProfessor Maria Dakake, Department of Religious Studies, collaborated with other renowned scholars of Islamic Studies to organize a conference on "Contemplating the Qur'an" ("Tadabbur al-Qur'an"), held at Howard University on March 25-26, 2013. The conference was sponsored in part by the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, as well as Howard University's School of Divinity, Georgetown University, and the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Many of the scholars who presented their research at the conference are also involved with the Study Qur'an project, a collective editorial effort to provide a new translation of the Qur'an accessibe to the English-speaking public.

The conference highlighted several areas of contemporary Qur'anic scholarship, including the study of different hermeneutical approaches to the Qur'an; intertextual and thematic readings of the Qur'anic text; and textual analyses that explore the relationship between structure and meaning in the Qur'an. One of the key aims of the conference was to foster discussion between academics, community leaders, and students regarding the Qur’an and its various interpretations. The conference focused on the following topics:

  • The Qur'an in dialogue with Jews and Christians
  • The Qur'an between faith and critical thinking
  • Qur'anic ethics
  • Gender in the Qur'an
  • Intertextual readings of the Qur'an
  • Thematic and stylistic analysis


Opening Remarks: Dean Alton B. Pollard (Howard Divinity School) and Zainab Alwani (Howard Divinity School)

Panel 1, "Structural and Intertextual Analysis of Prophetic Narratives"

Sarra Tlili (University of Florida), "Stone and Sound Motifs in Surat al-Hijr"

Dalia Abo-Haggar (Harvard University), "The Queen of Sheba, the Hoopoe, and the Ant: A Structural Analysis of the Role of the Story of Solomon in Surat al-Naml"

Bruce Lawrence (Duke University), "Qur'anic Translation as Linguistic Performance: The Case of Surat Maryam"

Panel 2, "Structural and Literary Constructions in the Qur'an"

M. Zakyi Ibrahim (California State University-Fullerton), "A Structural Analysis of Qur'an 56: Whose Assessment is it Anyway?"

Anne-Sylvie Boisliveau (University of Groningen), "Textual Commentaries Inside the Qur'anic Text: 'Words Spoken Aside' Contributing the Self-Referentiality"

Ahmed Alwishah (Pitzer College), "Dialectical Disputation in the Qur'an"

Panel 3, "Qur'anic Engagement With Jews and Christians and Their Narratives"

Tariq Hamid, "Christians, Jews, Muslims: Friends or Foes? What the Qur'an Says"

Faraz Sheikh (St. Joseph's University), "Conceptual Reading of the Qur'an: Forgetting Identity and Cultivating a 'Learning Subjectivity' for Re-imagining 'Faith' Relations"

Catherine Bronson (Beloite College), "Adam's Zawj: The Qur'anic Eve"

Younus Mirza (Millsaps College), "Abridging the Isra'iliyyat: Shaykh Ahmad Shakir's Summary of Ibn Kathir"

Panel 4, "Faith and Critical Thinking Through the Qur'an"

Martin Nguyen (Fairfield University), "The Dialectic of Revelation: The Qur'an and Systematic Theology"

Mahan Mirza (Zaytuna College), "Signs Not Proofs: Revelation and Iron Descend From the Sky"

Basit Karim, "Critique, Qur'anic Studies, and Form-of-Life: 'Contemporary Critical Practices' Reprised"

Umeyye Yazicioglu (St. Joseph's University), "Belief in Hell/Heaven in this Day and Age? Said Nursi's Interpretation of Hereafter in the Qur'an"

Keynote Address: Sulayman Nyang (Howard University)

Panel 5, "Qur'anic Discourses on Women and Gender"

Ilona Gerbakher (Harvard University), "Female Intellect in 20th Century Jewish and Islamic Legal Thought: A Comparative Perspective"

Zuleyha Colak (Columbia University), "Womanly Guile Vs. Human-ly Guile"

Salman Younas, "Between Bilqis and Abu Bakara: Ashraf 'Ali Thanawi on Women's Political Leadership"

Shehnaz Haqqani (University of Texas-Austin), "Men as Kum and Women as Hunna: The Qur'an's Essential Audience"

Panel 6, "Qur'anic Conceptions of Virtue and Ethics"

Katrin Jomaa (Emory University), "'Virtuous Action Rather Than Denomination': The Qur'anic Approach to Defining Umma and Liberating it from Historical Confines"

Celene Ayat Lizzio (Brandeis University), "Disparate Paradigms for Energizing Religious Reform: Two Prominent 20th Century Exegetes on Qur'anic Hermeneutics and Religious Ethics"

Farid Esack (University of Johannesburg), "The Acid-Test of Faith: Socio-Economic Justice in the Early Meccan Surahs"

Panel 7, "Interpreting the Qur'an: Necessary, Impossible, Inevitable?"

Zainab Alwani (Howard University), "Contemplating the Qur'an: Themes of Surat al-Hujurat"

Amr Osman, "Is There a Literal Reading of the Qur'an?: The Myth of the Literalism of Zahirism"

Maria Dakake (George Mason University), "Tafsir and Ta'wil: The Search for Meaning and Certainty in the Qur'an"