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Typology in the Qur’an and Qur’anic Exegesis

01.12.2014 - 02.12.2014

Workshop and conference convened by the research group A05 “From Logos to Kalām: Figurations and Transformations of Knowledge in Near Eastern Late Antiquity” (Prof. A. Neuwirth)

Workshop December 1–2, 2014 | Conference July 15–16, 2015


The ambition of this workshop and conference is to facilitate a fruitful discussion between scholars of late antique and medieval patristic and rabbinic exegesis and scholars of the Qur’an and its exegesis. The focus of this discussion will be the method of typological exegesis, a mode of interpretation common to exegesis and historiography, in which a canonical text (often scripture) is connected with historical events, people and ideas in the past, present and future. With regard to late antique Christianity, and to a lesser extent rabbinic Judaism, the practice is well documented and studied. The practice also existed widely in the history of Qur’anic exegesis, in the sense of the Qur’anic fulfillment of Biblical types and figures, and also in the sense of the fulfillment of Qur’anic types in ensuing centuries of Muslim religious and cultural history. Underlying the method of typological reading is the view that scripture is a unity, that it is analogously related, and that the role of the exegete is to unravel the relationships between the type and the antitype.

Here are some questions that we aim to address:    

What is the vocabulary of typology in the Qur’an and its exegesis?

What continuities can there be observed, on the terminological and conceptual level, between patristic and rabbinic typological exegesis and Qur’anic exegesis?

How does a typological reading of the Qur’an stress its unity and dialectical continuity with previous scripture and prophecy?

How is the history of the nascent Muslim community, as depicted in the sīrah (the biography of the prophet) and early conquest accounts, related typologically to the Qur’an and to the Bible?

What theories of typological exegesis did Muslim theorists of language and rhetoric produce and how were they applied? What theoretical or practical objections, if any, were there made to typological exegesis?

If we look at the anthropological significance of typological meaning, how does the enactment and embodiment of Biblical and Qur’anic types appear beyond exegesis as a literary, philological practice? What contributions did Sufi and philosophical thought make to explore the psychological and pedagogical dimensions of typological meaning?

In the realm of law, how does typological exegesis, understood as a form of analogy, relate, epistemologically, to the method of deriving legal judgments through analogy (qiyās)? How does the theory of abrogation (naskh) serve as an exegetical strategy for limiting the potential of typological, analogical interpretation?

If typological interpretation is a theory of history, how does it appear in the theory and practice of Muslim historiography? How did typological reading, with its focus on dialectical continuity, contribute to the writing of universal histories? What is the paratextual and historiographical function of citing verses from the Qur’an in medieval Muslim historical writing?      

With the prevalence of the historical-critical method in biblical exegesis since the 19th century, typological Christian readings of the Bible seem to have receded and no longer enjoy the centrality they had previously had. Today typological readings are continued within the realm of hermeneutics and fiction. Is there an antagonism between typological reading and modern historical-critical exegesis, which tends to question the unity of scripture and the logical foundations of analogous reading? What is the place of typological readings in modern engagements with the Qur’an? How can historical-critical approaches to the Qur’an take into consideration the typological nature of its discourse?

The ultimate goal of these two meetings is to investigate concepts and methods of typological interpretation in late antiquity and the medieval period, and to situate these within the wider context of the transfer of knowledge in the premodern period. In the first meeting, in December 2014, the aim is an open discussion around the abovementioned questions. Participants from various disciplines, including Qur’anic studies, patristic and rabbinic literature, religious studies, hermeneutics and philology, will be invited to give brief statements (20 min) in order to survey the themes that need to be examined. Participants will agree on writing papers on these themes to be completed and circulated in May 2015. In the second meeting, scheduled for July 2015, participants will present their papers to the group for a final discussion.

For further information, please contact Dr. Islam Dayeh: islamdayeh[at]zedat.fu-berlin.de

Zeit & Ort

01.12.2014 - 02.12.2014

SFB-Villa, Sitzungsraum, Schwendenerstraße 8, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem