On Reading a Commemorative Volume on Professor Andrew Rippin
Usually , when any prominent personality—whether a political leader, a celebrity, or an academician—dies, what follows is an ‘Obituary’. Obituary is (literally) defined as ‘a report, especially in a newspaper, which gives the news of someone’s death and details of their life’. However, on very few occasions, in case of an academician (thinker/ writer/ intellectual), a commemorative volume (or a festschrift)—with a focus either on the life and works of that scholar or on the areas of his/ her specialization—is published to honor, and to memorize his/ her contribution. This is mostly done in the western academe, and a recent example of this ‘honor’ is a festschrift in honor of Andrew Rippin (b. May 1950 in London, England—d. November 2016, Victoria, Canada), who died on Tuesday, 29 November 2016 in Victoria, Canada.
Professor Rippin was a ‘British-Canadian specialist of the Qur’an, classical Islam and the study of religion’, who served as the Professor of History and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Victoria, Canada. Rippin (who is known by the nickname of ‘Andy’ among his friends/ colleagues) completed his PhD from McGill University (1981) in the area of Qur’anic Studies. Later, his extensive research into the history of the Qur’an and its interpretation, resulted not only in numerous publications, but he also became a specialist in the Qur’an and the history of its interpretation.
Dr Tauseef Ahmad Parray Book: Islamic Studies Today: Essays in Honor of Andrew Rippin Editors: Majid Daneshgar & Walid A. Saleh Publisher: Leiden/ Boston: BRILL, 2017 Pages: xxii+ 432; ISBN: 9789004336339Rippin has authored 100s of publications; and his major publications—either as (co) author, (c0) editor, etc.,—in the field of Qura’nic Studies are: Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur’an (1988); The Qur’an: Formative Interpretation (1999); The Qur’an and its Interpretative Tradition (2001); The Qur’an: Style and Contents (2001); and Blackwell Companion to the Qur’an (2006 & 2009).
An obituary, entitled as “In Memoriam—Andrew Rippin: 1950–2016” was published in Review of Middle East Studies (Vol. 51, No. 1, 2017, pp. 155-56) by Prof. Emran El-Badawi (University of Houston, USA). In this obituary, he writes about Rippin in these words: “Andrew’s many writings on Islamic scripture and Muslim life made him a proliﬁc scholar of international repute. His penetrating critical insights were welcomed by the students he taught and the colleagues with whom he collaborated, both in the western academe and among the Islamic seminaries…, and at various academic conferences around the world. Andrew is known best, perhaps, for his critical studies of the body of Qur’anic exegetical tradition (Tafsir) and subsequent literary and historical studies of the text known as the Qur’anic sciences (‘Ulum al-qura’n). The breadth of Andrew’s knowledge, his commitment to academic research, and the coolness of his temperament made him a sober source of reason”.
However, before his death, a commemorative volume was published in his honor, entitled as “Islamic Studies Today: Essays in Honor of Andrew Rippin” (Brill, 2017). Edited by Majid Daneshgar (University of Otago, New Zealand) and Walid A. Saleh (University of Toronto, Canada), this festschrift “is an homage and a tribute to” Professor Andrew Rippin, who is considered as “one of the leading scholars of the study of Islam”. Having been active in the field for about four decades, Rippin’s influence has been “both broad and deep” and ranges “from studies on early Islam to research on the Internet and its use among Muslims” (p. ix). This volume, for Badawi, “is an important scholarly contribution in its own right, and a ﬁnal celebration of Andrew’s proliﬁc and fruitful career”.
Consisting of three parts (Parts 1-3) and divided into 19 chapters, the volume focuses, primarily, “on the Qur’an and tafsir, both classical and modern, and represent important contributions to the field”. Besides these chapters, the volume also includes two articles, along with a short note in French, which “discuss the career, achievements, and contributions of Professor Rippin” (p. x).
It is “a collection of essays on the Qur’an, qur’anic exegesis, the early history of Islam, the relationship of the qur’anic text to writings from other religious traditions, and the use of the Qur’an in modern discussions and debates. … The essays are based on and reflect Rippin’s broad interests and methodological innovations; his studies of text transmissions, hermeneutical studies of the Qur’an; careful unpacking of the complex relations between qur’anic exegesis and historical contexts; and exploring potential new methodologies for future research”. This is mentioned in the description of this book, which clearly shows its objectives, scope, as well as range of contents.
Part-I, ‘Islamic Exegesis and Tradition: Formative and Classical Period’, consists of first 6 chapters and discuss the early and classical period of Islamic exegesis and tradition. These chapters are contributed, respectively, by Gerald Hawting, Andreas Görke, Gordon Nickel, Roberto Tottoli, Arnold Yasin Mol, and Tariq Jaffer.
Part-II, ‘The Qur’an and Qur’anic Studies: Issues and Themes’, consists of Chapters 7-13 (contributed by Angelika Neuwirth, Aaron W. Hughes, Michael E. Pregill, Nicolai Sinai, Marianna Klar, Bruce Fudge, and Gabriel S. Reynolds, respectively) and is devoted to issues and themes both in the Qur’an and Qur’anic Studies.
Part-III, ‘Islam, Qur’an, and Tafsir: Modern Discussions’, consists of Chapters 14-19 (contributed by Herbert Berg, Peter G. Riddell, Stefano Bigliardi, Feras Hamza, and Majid Daneshgar) and focuses on modern discussions pertaining to Islam, Qur’an, and tafsir. This is followed by Prof. Jane McAuliffe’s ‘A Concluding Appreciation’ (pp. 386-395), which is ‘a moving personal tribute from a close friend’ of Professor Rippin. McAuliffe, calling Prof. Rippin as ‘Andy’ in her appreciation note summarizes his contribution in these words: “Andy has been among the leading scholars in the field of Islamic studies for decades. His contributions have nurtured new forms of scholarly work, inspired both students and colleagues, and [has] put the study of the Qur’an squarely at the center of the field” (p. 395).
Similarly, Angelika Neuwirth (in Chapter 7 of this volume) calls Andrew Rippin as “the unquestioned doyen of North American qur’anic studies”, who was “one of the first to contextualize qur’anic discourses with contemporary theological thought, being at the same time aware of the Qur’an’s Islamic exegetical embedding” (p. 125). Gabriel S. Reynolds (in Chapter 13) honors him in these words: “Few scholars have done more than Andrew Rippin to highlight the richness and diversity of the Islamic exegetical tradition” (p. 260). Majid Daneshgar (co-editor of this volume and a student of Professor Rippin) is of the opinion that “Andrew Rippin is among the most influential qur’anic scholars of the West, whose publications are still discussed in the majority of Muslim academic institutes” (p. 371).
The Volume also includes an ‘Appendix’ of ‘Publications by Andrew Rippin’ (pp. 399-422) which lists, among others, his 24 Books, 50 Book Chapters, 32 Journal Articles, 100s of Articles in Encyclopedias and Reference Works, and 186 Book Reviews and Brief Notes—showing the range and extensiveness of Rippin’s scholarship as well as expertise. The Volume touches upon, and highlights, those aspects of the Qur’anic Studies which were very dear and near to Rippin. It will prove helpful to the students of Islamic Studies in general and to the student of the Quranic Studies in particular. The Volume is also a good example showing how the West (and/ or Westerners) honors their academicians, and how they value their scholarship.
The author is Assistant Professor, Islamic Studies, at GDC Pulwama, Kashmir. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org