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Shards of History: Piecing together the Early Qur’an

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Garrett Maxwell

The background of the earliest layer of the Quranic corpus remains shrouded on account of its laconic style and exegetical opacity. One of the most recent scholarly attempts to bring some measure of clarity is the Corpus Koranicum project that seeks to establish a chronology of Quranic surahs by quantitative means, and in doing so, provide a scaffolding on which to construct a linear narrative of the Quran's literary and theological development. Following the lead of scholars such as Nicolai Sinai, my research focuses exclusively on the very earliest group of surahs identified, known as the 'Early Meccan Group I,' comprising fifteen brief surahs that are notoriously difficult to decipher. By resorting back to the most fundamental levels of analysis such as grammatical address, I have attempted to delineate a cogent sub-chronology of this earliest group of surahs, as well as identify and decipher any plausible hints as to the historical or biographical context of these revelations. Sinai has called for as much, acknowledging that the chronological ordering of the text based on quantitative considerations needs to be done in parallel with ""the reconstruction of a plausible theological and literary trajectory"" (Sinai, 2017). In this paper, I will lay out my findings. By attending to formal features of Quranic stylization and intratextual resonances, I will offer several possibilities for sketching in broad strokes the prophetological arc of the early Quran in a logically efficient manner. I will also propose that Q 102 evidences a rupture from the rhetorical style of the earliest layer of recitations, and triggers developments in charismatic prophecy that begin to emerge in Q 81, which build on the incipient prophetology of what I argue are the earliest accounts of prophetic commission in the corpus, namely Q 93, 94, and 108. Lastly, I will highlight the thorny questions that this study has raised which demand further attention.
University / Institution: Brigham Young University
Type: Oral
Format: In Person
SESSION B (10:45AM-12:15PM)
Area of Research: Humanities
Faculty Mentor: Kevin Blankinship
Location: Alumni House, BOYER ROOM (11:25am)