REL 230(F) Reading Reading: An Introduction to the Qur'an and Islam (Same as Comparative Literature 260) (W)*
One of the two most consequential texts in human history, the Qur'an is more conscious of itself as text and the work of interpretation that is part of the life of a text. Because it is God's most important sign (and also because it is relatively short) millions have memorized it and the art of Qur'anic recitation is one of the supreme Islamic performing arts. Nevertheless it is primarily as a text that the Qur'an exists in itself and in the minds of Muslims. The text of the Qur'an will thus be the focus of this course, reading it extensively, intensively and repeatedly throughout the semester. We will attend to the structure and variety of styles and topics in the text and to the Qur'an's understanding of itself in relation to other forms of literary expression. We will place the form and content in the context of seventh century c.e. Arab society and attend to the life of the Prophet (PBUH) that provides one crucial framework to the text. Through the lens of tafsir, Qur'anic commentary, we will also use the text to give an initial survey of some of the main theological, philosophical, mystical and legal developments in the Islamic tradition. Finally we will explore some of the aspects of the place of the text in the life of Muslims, including the development of calligraphy and recitation. Format: lecture/discussion. Requirements: three essays (6-8 pages) based on class materials (at least one will have a revision process). Students able to read the Arabic text may substitute work in a collateral reading group of the Qur'an in Arabic for one of the essays. No prerequisites. Enrollment limit: 19 (expected: 10). Open to all.