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NEAR E 231 A: Introduction To The Quran

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 3:30pm - 4:20pm
CDH 135
Joint Sections: 
Terri Deyoung
Terri L. DeYoung

Syllabus Description:


Religion 212 A

Introduction to the Qur’an

Spring Quarter 2017


(In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful)



Instructor: Terri DeYoung                                                                       Class Location: 135 Condon Hall

                                                                                     SLN Numbers: 17543 and 19087

Office:246  Denny Hall                                                                                Class Time: M-Th 3:30-4:20


Office Hours: MT 1:30-2:20 or by appointment

Telephone: (206)543-6184

or (206)543-6033 (dept. office—leave message)



Teaching Assistant: Sean Namei
Meeting Place: Denny Hall, 4th Floor Loft


Office Hours: Mondays and Tuesdays from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM or by appointment



Course Description: This course will provide students with an introduction to the Qur’an (also spelled Koran), the most influential written work in Arabic, which has had an unmatched impact on the development of Islamic institutions and Islamic literatures for more than 1400 years. The course will emphasize the historical context of the Qur’an’s revelation, the history of the text, its collection, organization, and interpretation. The course will be offered in English (no knowledge of Arabic is required).


Textbooks: There will be two required textbooks for the course. They are: 1) An Introduction to Islam (4th edition, 2011) by Frederick Mathewson Denny, and 2) How to Read the Qur’an (2011) by Carl W. Ernst. Both are available on-line to students through the University of Washington Library website, or hard-copies may be purchased at the University Bookstore.

                The edition of Denny used for reference in the syllabus will be the 4th edition, which is the one available at the University Bookstore and on-line. Older editions of Denny can also used for the readings, but the page numbering may be different. Both the two assigned texts are currently available at the University Bookstore. We will begin using Denny the first week of classes, so you should make access to this text a priority


               . In addition, two websites in particular will be useful for this course: 1) (it has side by side comparisons of different translations of the Qur’an, including the most widely used translation (by Yusuf ‘Ali) and the most recent standard translation (Sahih International) and 2) (not to be confused with, which is a different site). This site contains complete texts (linked to the ayahs of each surah) of various authoritative tafsirs (commentaries) on the Qur’an. There will be lectures during the first weeks of the courses detailing how to use these websites.


               Other material will be distributed by the professor through e-mail attachment during the quarter. Please speak to the professor of the course as soon as possible if you do not think you can access material this way.


Goals of the Course:

               1) To better understand the central text of Islamic civilization, how it has shaped and influenced the development of Islamic societies, and continues to do so.

               2)To examine how Islamic civilization was in turn shaped by assumptions about Scripture in the monotheistic traditions that preceded it.

               3) To learn the basic principles that are considered important in  the continuing scholarly conversation about the Qur’an.

               4) To learn to read the Qur’an in an informed and knowledgeable way, and to be able to use secondary literature in this process. .

Student Requirements: The course will meet five days a week (M-Th) from 3:30-2:20, in Condon 135, with smaller Friday sections (to be taught by Sean Namei). Students will be expected to read the “Required Readings” listed in the syllabus, attend the class sessions, and participate in any class discussions held during the class period. In order to encourage class attendance and participation, at least three (but no more than fine) “one-minute essays” will be assigned during the quarter. The students will be asked to summarize, in a paragraph or two, either 1) what they felt was the most important question to emerge out of the material covered in class that day, or 2) to summarize the main theme of the lecture or film. The assignments will not themselves be graded, but they will be an important factor in determining the class participation grade. Therefore, it will be very difficult to get a 4.0 in the class without having done (and turned in) all the essays on time.

            On April 18 and May 15, 2-page Position Papers will be due in class.

The 1st paper will (tentatively) be on the subject: “Which is a more useful religious concept for the

The 2nd paper will be due on May 15 (Monday) and it'll (tentatively) be on the subject: Denny (p. 139) says the following: 'For people not reared in the Islamic tradition, starting to study the Qur'an is somewhat difficult. This is because, first, it is not a narrative text, as are the Hebrew Bible and many other scriptures.' Do you think this a useful, or misleading, statement for Denny's primary audience (students of Islam interested in knowing more about the Qur'an)?


  • On April 21 (Friday), 2017 (tentative date), there will be a Terms Quiz in class, that will cover material on

the Terms List distributed the first week of classes.

  • On May 12 (Friday) there will be a second Terms Quiz, that will cover the material in the 2nd Terms List

(distributed April 24 (Monday))

  • On June 8 (Thursday), from 2:30-4:20, there will be a final exam for the class (held in Condon 135).


            There will be an automatic deduction of .5 from the grade of any assignments if they are completed late without the express permission of the instructor (preferably obtained in advance).


Evaluation: The final grade in the course will be determined on the following basis:


Class Participation: 10%                              Papers: 20%                                                     Terms Quizzes: 30 % ……………………                            …….Final Exam: 40%


Plagiarism: Plagiarism occurs whenever someone uses the ideas or writings of another as their own without giving due credit. This applies to both exams and papers. All policies in place concerning academic honesty at the University of Washington apply to this course.  It is the student’s responsibility to become fully informed about those policies. Refer to the University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478‐120), for more information on the subject, or Search “Student Academic Responsibility” on the University of Washington homepage.


For Those with Disabilities The University of Washington is committed to providing access, and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for individuals with disabilities. For information or to request disability accommodation contact:

Disabled Student Services (Seattle campus, matriculated students) at 206.543.8924/V, 206.543.8925/TTY, 206.616.8379 (FAX), or e-mail at


Classroom Courtesy: If you think you may have to leave early or arrive late to a class, please let the instructor know in advance and try to sit near the door, so that you will not inconvenience others.

             Since the consumption of food during the lecture can interfere with class participation and maybe distracting to others, students are requested to avoid this in the classroom unless they are prepared to share what they have brought with all the other students. Your cooperation will be appreciated by everyone.

                                        In general, civil and respectful behavior in the classroom is expected from everyone. If there are any serious disruptions during class sessions, University police will be contacted.




Background Reading

Many new and useful critical works about the Qur’ān have become available in the last few years, but the absolutely essential resource for information about all aspects of the Qur’ān remains the new edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam (1953-to-date), which is available in the Suzzallo reference stacks under the call number DS37 E5 1960. It is also available on-line. A new reference work (which, unlike the EI, uses English-language terms for the titles of its articles) is The Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an (2001-to date), ed. by Jane Dammen McAuliffe. It is available in the Suzzallo reference stacks, PJ7510 E53 1998. Additional useful material about the Qur’ān from a religious standpoint can be found in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade et al, BL31 .E46 2005 (available in Odegaard and Suzzallo reference stacks).

            The basic bibliographical reference work for articles and (in some cases) monographs on Islamic subjects written in European languages is the Index Islamicus (Z7835 M6 L6), which is available in the Suzzallo reference stacks and on-line. There is, unfortunately, still no comprehensive reference work for articles on these subjects in Arabic.

Introductory Studies: If this is your first contact with Qur’ānic studies, you may want to read a short basic introduction to the text. Probably the best general introduction can be found in Chapter 6 (pp. 130-49) of An Introduction to Islam, by Frederick Matthewson Denny (one of the textbooks assigned for this course). Chapters 4 and 5 of Richard Bell’s An Introduction to the Qur’an (Call Number: BP130 B4 1970) may also be helpful. The same is true of Angelika Neuwirth’s chapter, “Structural and Linguistic Features (of the Qur’an), pp. 970113 of The Cambridge Companion to the Qur’an (Call Number: 130.4 C36  2006, on reserve in Odegaard).  For an introduction to the text that treats the Qur’ān from a more literary/cultural standpoint, see An Introduction to Arabic Literature by Roger Allen, PJ7510 A43 2000 (on reserve on Odegaard). Or you may consult Professor DeYoung’s article (“The Qur’an”) in the recently published Middle Eastern Literature and Its Times (vol. 8 of World Literature and Its Times), ed. Joyce Moss (Call Number: PJ307 M67 2004), which will also be available on reserve for this course.

Translations of the Qur’ān: For a long time Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Qur’ān has been frequently used in courses of this kind because it is generally accurate and has the original Arabic facing the translation. It is readily available, inexpensive (often available for free) and is the translation ordered for this course.  Caution must exercised when using the commentary. Mr. Ali was a member of the Ahmadiyya sect, and his commentary reflects the beliefs of that group of Muslims, whose ideas are not all acceptable to every member of the Islamic community at large.

             Approximately ten years ago, a new translation, by a Muslim professor of philosophy at the American University in Beirut, Majid Fakhry (and approved by the Institute of Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University), became available. The style is deliberately archaizing, and is thus inferior to Yusuf Ali’s translation  . More recently, The Qur'an, A New Translation. By M.A.S. Abdel-Haleem has been published by Oxford University Press. Professor Haleem is an excellent Qur’anic scholar and his translation is very fine, but the text only includes the translation without the original Arabic. This, too, makes it inferior to Yusuf Ali’s edition as a reference work. Both Fakhri’s and Haleem’s translation, however, are acceptable for this course

            If you want to look at other translations (including Yusuf Ali’s), a group of authoritative translations into English can also be found on the Quran Explorer website or through the Wikipedia article on the Qur’an. For some guidance to finding the translation best suited to your needs, see Khaled Muhammad, “Assessing English Translations of the Qur’an,” Middle East Quarterly 12.2 (Spring 2005):58-71. It contains some very useful insights into the selection process, though, of course, the conclusions do reflect the author’s personal preferences.

Concordances to the Qur’an: A concordance lists all the words to found in a particular written work. Though concordances are not limited to religious texts, all widely available scriptures do have concordances . There are many concordances to the Qur’an available in Arabic. A recent and useful one is Muhammad Rushdi al-Zayn, Al-Mu‘jam al-Mufahris li-Ma‘ani al-Qur’an al-Azim in the Suzzallo stacks. Call number BP133 M855 1995. The only concordance in English is by Hanna E. Kassis (Call Number: BP133 K37 1983). It has a very unusual system of organization, however, so before using it you may want to consult the instructor.  

Thematic Guides to the Qur’ān: There are many thematic guides to the Qur’ān (or, more precisely, guides to its contents arranged thematically). Two recent volumes that may prove especially useful for research are Faruq Sherif, A Guide to the Contents of the Qur’an, BP130 .S538 1995, and  Anton Wessels, Understanding the Qur’an, BP132 W4713 2000.

Guides to Other Scriptures (for comparative purposes): Perhaps the most accessible (and useful) introduction to this question can be found in the textbook frequently assigned at the University of Washington, Jews, Christians and Muslims: A Comparative Introduction to Monotheistic Religions by John Corrigan, Frederick M. Denny, Carlos M.N. Eire and Martin S. Jaffee. Part 1, “Scripture and Tradition,” is especially helpful. For study of the compilation of the New Testament, I recommend Bruce M. Metzger’s The Canon of the New Testament (on reserve in Odegaard BS2320 M47 1987). The literature on the development of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible canon is vast, stimulated by the discovery of the oldest manuscripts of these scriptures among the Dead Sea scrolls (after World War II).Good overviews of scholarship in this area can be found in Harold H. Rowley, The Growth of the Old Testament, BS1140 R66 and William O.E. Oesterley, Introduction to the Books of the Old Testament,

BS1140 O4 (both in the Odegaard stacks).   Also worth reading in this regard is the section on “The Old

Testament” by Robert Alter in The Literary Guide to the Bible, BS511.2 L58 1987 (on reserve in Odegaard). An excellent comparative introduction to the oral dimension of the various scriptural texts can be found in William A. Graham, Beyond the Written Word, BL71 G7 1987 (on reserve in Odegaard).

Discussions of Qur’ānic Recitation: The oral recitation of the Qur’ānic text is central to Islamic culture and the appreciation of the text in Muslim societies. The first study of the practice available in English was the now-classic The Art of Reciting the Qur’an by Kristina Nelson (on reserve in Odegaard BP131.6 N44 1985). More recently Michael Sells has written sensitively on the subject as part of his book, Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations (on reserve in Odegaard BP130.4 S43 1999). We will be examining his descriptions of the practice toward the end of this quarter. William Graham’s book (mentioned above) is also helpful in understanding the function of the oral Qur’an in Islamic culture.   

The Arabic Language and the Pre-Islamic Period. For linguistic study of Arabic and its evolution, especially prior to the rise of Islam, Kees Versteegh’s The Arabic Language(1997) provides indispensable information. It is available  in Odegaard (PJ6075 V46 1997). An older but still useful book is Anwar Chejne’s The Arabic Language.  Irfan Shahid’s four-volume study of Byzantium and the Arabs ( in stacks of Odegaard, DS62.25 + various) in the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries C.E. similarly provides exhaustive information about Arab society prior to Islamic times.

General Reading on the Culture and History of Islam: Two books in this area can be recommended. The first is Albert Hourani’s History of the Arab Peoples (1991), which is well-written and highly informative introductory work. The second is Marshall Hodgson’s The Venture of Islam (1974). This was the first book to apply modern methods of historiography and cultural analysis to the study of the medieval Islamic world. It is not well-written, but underneath the surface it contains some of the most astute analyses of medieval Islamic culture yet attempted. Copies of both books are available in Suzzallo and Odegaard libraries. You can also generally find copies for sale at The University Bookstore and other large chains in the general books department.

Catalog Description: 
A literary, historical, and theological introduction to the Quran. Looks at the historical circumstances of the text's compilation; its collection and redaction; its narrative structure; its rhetorical strategies; its major themes; it connections to and departures from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament; commentary and exegesis; translation; and its impact on political and religious thought. Offered: jointly with RELIG 212.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:25pm