In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Qur'an

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Introductory Works
  • Textual Editions
  • Translations
  • History and Method of the Study
  • The Use of the Qurʾan

Islamic Studies Qur'an
Andrew Rippin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 September 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0066


For Muslims, the Qurʾan is the revelatory word of God, dictated by the angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad in segments between the years 612 and 632. The revelations were memorized and recorded word-for-word in Arabic and are today found in the Arabic text of the Qurʾan in precisely the manner God intended. Consisting of 114 chapters, called suras, the text is arranged approximately in order of length from the longest chapter through the shortest, with a short prayer chapter as the “opening” in sura 1. Rhyme dominates the segments of the text called ayas (commonly translated as “verses”) and adds to the particular literary qualities of the scripture, deemed to be unlike any human production and captured in the assertion of its “inimitability.” The Qurʾan is the defining symbol of Islam, being the focus of education, law, theology and ritual for every Muslim. Valued particularly as an oral production, recitation has been a central mode of its transmission, although the manuscript tradition—in both functional and decorative manifestations—is very strong. The Qurʾan affirms the oneness of God as its most important theme, placed within the context of the biblical tradition and worldview, with the all-powerful God creating the world and the first human Adam, sending a series of prophets with the message of his desired way of life for all of creation (summarized in the meaning of the word islam, “submission to the will of God”). This worldview also includes a belief in the final judgment day and the promise of eternal bliss for those who believe and act accordingly, as well as the threat of eternal punishment for those who reject the message. These beliefs, held in common with the Judeo-Christian tradition, emerge in a context of the polytheistic Near Eastern society of Muhammad and incorporate elements of that setting with ideas such as that of the existence of the jinn (genies) and ethico-religious assumptions appropriate to that time and place.

General Overviews

Resources to guide the study of the Qurʾan have expanded enormously, especially in the last few decades. There are many works that bring together studies of the structure, content, understanding, and role of the Qurʾan in an encyclopedic manner. These works are often the best place to turn to ascertain basic facts and further bibliography. McAuliffe 2001–2006 is up-to-date, comprehensive, and detailed; it is also the first attempt to try to summarize the interests of scholarship in the Qurʾan, and to that extent remains a tentative overview. Different perspectives and different analyses of the appropriate topics for study can be sought in a briefer work such as Leaman 2006. Compendia of previous scholarship, such as Turner 2004, can also be useful. Apparently similar are the works of Ibn Warraq (Warraq 1998, 2002) but the polemical framing of the contents and the editorial selection process makes these works useful only when understood from a critical perspective. Warraq’s volumes include some classic scholarly articles translated into English from French and German that would otherwise remain inaccessible to many readers. Rippin 2006 and McAuliffe 2006 are overviews comprising new scholarship, and they provide useful entry points for seeing the range of scholarship and the variety of viewpoints.

  • Journal of Qurʾanic Studies.

    Published by Edinburgh University Press, and edited by M. Abdel Haleem, this is the only scholarly journal devoted to the Qurʾan. Begun in 1999, it includes articles in English and Arabic.

  • Leaman, Oliver, ed. The Qurʾan: An Encyclopedia. London: Routledge, 2006.

    Includes over 500 entries by 42 authors.

  • McAuliffe, Jane Dammen, ed. Cambridge Companion to the Qurʾān. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    A collection of fourteen essays divided into sections on the formation of the text, description and analysis, transmission and dissemination, interpretation and the intellectual traditions, and contemporary readings.

  • McAuliffe, Jane Dammen, ed. Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān. 6 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2001–2006.

    A basic source of information and up-to-date bibliography on most topics related to the Qurʾan. Also available on CD-ROM and online from Brill.

  • Rippin, Andrew, ed. The Blackwell Companion to the Qur’an. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.

    A collection of thirty-two essays ranging from basic introductory overviews to detailed analyses of content, structure, interpretation, and the place of the Qurʾan in Muslim life.

  • Turner, Colin, ed. The Koran: Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies. 4 vols. London: Routledge, 2004.

    A collection of seventy-five reprinted articles and chapters, mainly from the 20th century, covering a broad range of topics under the following headings: Provenance and Transmission, Themes and Doctrines, Style and Structure, and Translation and Exegesis.

  • Warraq, Ibn, ed. The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1998.

    Framed in a polemical context of denying the divine origin of the Qurʾan, the work reprints thirteen scholarly articles and book extracts from 19th- and 20th-century authors under these headings: Collection of the Text, Variants, Sources of the Text, and Textual Criticism.

  • Warraq, Ibn, ed. What the Koran Really Says: Language, Text, and Commentary. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2002.

    Reprints forty scholarly articles from the 19th and 20th century, including a number translated from French and German on language, style, text, and manuscripts. The goal of the compilation is to bring into question the rationality of religious belief (a stance made explicit in the introduction).

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.