Introducing Sajid Shaffi’s Critical Bibliography on ‘Academic Research on the Quran’ (2019)

Dr Tauseef Ahmad Parray

In academics, a surfeit and plethora of literature is being produced on Islam, especially on its Primary Sources—the noble Qur’an and Hadith/ Seerah. The globally reputed publishers, like Ashgate, Brill, Cambridge, Edinburg, Harvard, Kube, Oxford, Palgrave, Princeton, Routledge, Springer, etc., all publish a good number of works on Islam, and things Islamic, unceasingly. Out of this scholarship, one of the interesting and exciting academic sub-fields, which is spread over a number of branches, and to which Muslims and non-Muslims (Orientalists/ Islamicists) have contributed extensively, is the area of the Qur’anic Studies—the studies related to Qur’an and its varied aspects. An interesting (emerging) category in this area, which is no doubt significant but found scarcely (especially in the English language), is the publication of ‘Bibliographies’ on the Qur’anic Studies. Bibliography (as a work) is generally defined as a book which provides ‘a list of sources of information on a given subject, period, etc.’; ‘a list of writings relating to a given subject’; or ‘a list often descriptive or critical notes of writings related to a particular subject, period, or author’.

Author: Sajid Shaffi
Title: Academic Research on the Quran: A Critical Bibliography
Publisher: New Delhi: Viva Books Private Limited (2019)
Pages: 143; ISBN: 978-93-88653-24-4; Price: 695/-

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Some of the previously published bibliographies in this specific field are: Adil Usmani’s Islamic Studies: Literature on the Qur’an in the English Language: A Bibliography (1986); Fawzi Mikhail Tardos’ The Holy Koran [Qur’an] in the Library of Congress: A Bibliography (1993); AbulHasan M. Sadeq and Nazrul Islam’s Contributions to Islamic Knowledge: Abstracts of Dissertations and Theses on Islamic Subjects, 1924-1998 (1999), and Sajid Shaffi’s 21st Century Quranic Studies in English: A Bibliography (2018)—a review of later was published in Kashmir Reader (dated 11th June, 2018). A new addition in this treasure house of bibliographies, and as an extension of his previous work, is Sajid Shaffi’s Academic Research on the Quran: A Critical Bibliography [hereinafter shortened as Bibliography], published by Viva Books, New Delhi (2019) in association with K. A. Nizami Center for Quranic Studies [KANCQS], AMU. Below is provided an assessment of this new Bibliography.
Consisting of around 150 pages, this Bibliography is divided into 21 (I-XXI) parts, excluding ‘Foreword’ by Prof A. R. Kidwai (Director of KANCQS, AMU [pp. vii-viii]), Preface (pp. ix-x), Acknowledgements (p. xi), and Cross Referencing and Index (pp.121-31). Sajid is a young (Kashmiri) researcher, who is presently pursuing PhD from AMU (on “The Orientalists’ English Translations of the Qur’an…”) and author, whose present work is a “bibliographical study of Doctoral and Masters Theses on the Qur’an in English with a synoptic view of these theses”. It “lists 364 doctoral and 126 Masters Theses on the Qur’an with the annotation on selected doctoral theses, specified under various sections and sub-sections”. The work is based on the “data retrieved from more than 100 online official archives of different universities from all over the world and other data bases for which access [to the author] has been provided by Maulana Azad Library”, AMU (pp. ix, x).
In the Foreword, Professor Kidwai highlights, in clear terms, the main goal of this Bibliography (and the author’s previous work) that both “the bibliographies provide an excellent opportunity to all the students of the Qur’an to gain acquaintance with the main and emerging contours of the Qur’anic scholarship in English” (p. vii). He also underscores the importance of compiling/ preparing such kind of bibliographies—which definitely are a result of author’s painstaking efforts, hard work, and patience—which “document the current trends in Qur’anic scholarship—the issues of gender, peaceful co-existence, interfaith dialogue, terrorism, environment, governance and economy” (p. vii). Kidwai admires the author, both, for his meticulous scholarship and hard work. He also points out/ highlights the main features of his work: Sajid Shaffi has done well in neatly categorizing some 500 Ph.D. studies (490 in total: 364 Doctoral and 126 Masters theses), under such helpful sections as tafsir of the Qur’an, issues of translatability and English translations of the Qur’an. It also projects contemporary issues, and his thematic presentation is laudable, reader-friendly feature; and combined with annotations (‘synoptic view’), this work provides readers with ‘fairly clear picture of the Qur’anic scholarship’ (p. vii).
In his concise ‘Preface’ (pp. ix-x), the author highlights the importance and structure of the Bibliography and points out that this work is both an extension of his previous work as well as a latest addition to the above mentioned works in this category. It provides an annotated/ a brief assessment of around 500 ‘Doctoral and Masters Theses on the Qur’an in English’. The work, divided into 21 chapters/ parts, provides a list of these theses’ thematically; and some of the broad categories, in which he enlists them, are: Qur’anic commentaries of classical and modern periods; issues of translatability (both comparative and lexical); Gender/ Current contemporary issues in the Qur’an; Thematic/ Conceptual Studies of the Qur’an; Comparative Religions; Theological and Political debates; Western (orientalist) studies; Juristic issues; Knowledge, Education, Ethics, and Science in Qur’an; Qur’an in the Digital World, and so on.
Some of the important features of this Bibliography are: It documents the current trends in Qur’anic scholarship; it highlights the research done on the issues of gender, peaceful co-existence, interfaith dialogue, terrorism, environment, governance, economy, vis-à-vis the Qur’an, thus being a practical manifestation of what M. A. S. Abdel Haleem mentioned in the Introduction of his translation (The Qur’an: A New Translation, 2005, p. ix): As the Qur’an is “intended for all times and all places”, therefore, in the 21st century as well, “evidence to support the various arguments is sought in the Qur’an” while struggling and “dealing with such universal issues as globalization, the environment, combating terrorism and drugs, issues of medical ethics, and feminism”. Sajid’s work skillfully categorizes these theses’ under 21 broad categories, which help in understanding the diverse range of subjects—from tafsir of the Qur’an, Translations, issues of Translatability, to Theological, Juristic, Political, Gender, Lexical issues, and from the Qur’an vis-à-vis Digital World and Qur’an and Ethics, Knowledge, Science, etc. It also provides a list of 57 theses’ through “a system of cross-referencing … which have been published in [the form of books and monographs, in between 1978 to 2018]” (p. x). The work also provides a “synoptic view” of most of the PhD theses’ very briefly, as some titles shed little, or insufficient light on their contents. It also adds an asterisk mark/ symbol (*) with the Masters’ theses (which are left un-annotated), and enlists, in numeric, the Thesis-turned/ published-as-books. It has an ‘Author Index’ which enlists the prominent ones along with entry number, which help in locating a person easily. It is on the basis of these features that Professor Kidwai has praised this work, and claims that it is a “laudable”, “reader-friendly”, “reference work”, which provides the readers with an “empirical information about the subject” as well as “fairly clear picture of the Qur’anic scholarship” (pp. vii-viii).
Though the book is almost free from any grammatical errors, typos/ technical issues; however, the author has missed to mention, Ayesha S. Chaudhry’s PhD Thesis, “Wife-Beating in the Pre-Modern Islamic Tradition” (entry no. 175, p. 51) in the’ cross-references’ which was published in 2013 as ‘Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition…’ by Oxford University Press (OUP). Also, the author has missed to mention, in the category of Gender/ Feminist issues, Aysha A. Hidayatullah’s Thesis, which was published (by OUP, in 2014) as ‘Feminists Edges of the Qur’an’, and Karen Bauer’s “Room for Interpretation: Qur’anic Exegesis and Gender” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton University, 2008).
In sum, Sajid Shaffi’s ‘Academic Research on the Quran’—which has numerous reader-friendly features—is a treasure house of the works on the Qur’anic Studies produced in the form of PhD and Masters’ Theses in 100s of reputed universities globally (and mostly of the West)—including universities of Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Jordan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, UK, USA. It will be helpful for the budding researchers to get a clear idea of what aspects have been, and are being, explored, examined, and scrutinized in the Qur’anic Studies. This also gives clear idea of the trends and developments that have occurred since the last few decades in this particular field of study. A useful reference work, it will be helpful equally to the students and academicians of Qur’anic Studies in general, and particularly to those who are eager to venture into this field of study—and for the later, Sajid’s ‘Academic Research on the Quran’ will serve as the first step.

The author is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, at GDC Pulwama, Kashmir. He can be reached at tauseef.parray21@gmail.com