The Vernacular Qur’ān: Translation and the Rise of Persian Exegesis (Oxford University Press/IIS, 2012)
This study examines how early juridical and theological debates over the translatability of the Qur'ān came to inform the development of Persian exegetical literature. From rhyming translations to major commentaries, this monograph follows the emergence of New Persian literature in the tenth century and continuing on with the further institutionalization of Persian as a rival to Arabic in courts and intuitions of education. Through a series of detailed case studies, my work analyzes the development of Qur'ānic hermeneutics, its relationship to vernacular cultures, religious elites, institutions of education, and dynastic authority. Here is an abstract and the table of contents.
Mapping Frontiers Across Medieval Islam: Geography, Translation and the ‘Abbāsid Empire (I.B. Tauris: London, 2011)
In modern scholarship, the ninth-century ‘Abbāsid mission sent to discover the legendary barrier against the apocalyptic tribes of Gog and Magog has been either dismissed as superstition or treated as historical fact. By exploring the intellectual and literary history surrounding the production and early reception of the famed adventure of Sallām the Interpreter, this monograph examines the roles of translation, administrative geography, and salvation history in the projection of early ‘Abbasid imperial power. Through an exploration of Greek, Syriac, Arabic and Persian sources, this study examines the formation and transmission of administrative geographical writing, spanning from the ‘Abbasids until the rise of Orientalist scholarship in the nineteenth century. The appendix of the book offers three translations of the main recensions of Sallām's adventure to the wall. Here is a sample from the book of one of these recensions.
“The Wiles of Creation: Philosophy, Fiction, and the ‘Ajā’ib al-Makhlūqāt,” Middle Eastern Literatures, 13.1 (2010): 21–48. Link
In the introduction to the Arabic cosmology of marvels, ‘Ajā’ib al-makhlūqāt wa gharā’ib al-mawjūdāt (‘Marvels of Creation and Rarities of Existence’), Zakariyyā’ al-Qazwīnī (d. 1283) raises the question of the veracity of marvels. Central to Qazwīnī’s exposition of the strange and marvelous is a sustained interest in the pleasure produced through the narration of elegant tales. Despite this aesthetic awareness, Qazwīnī returns repeatedly to the question of authenticity. This article traces the tension between the fictive and the real by exploring some of the Greek, Arabic, and Persian antecedents to Qazwīnī’s phenomenology of creation.
“Touching and Ingesting: Early Debates over the Material Qur’ān,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 129.3 (2009): 443–66. Link
Juridical debates over the sanctity of the Qur’ānic codex (muṣḥaf), beginning in the end of the first century and extending on into the second, intersect directly with questions of ritual purity. The range of positions expressed by early jurists demonstrates that the notion and function of scripture in this period had yet to be fully determined. By exploring how jurists discussed touching and ingesting the Qur’ān, this article examines how the significance of the Qur’ān as a physical and material object continued to be contested throughout the formative periods of Islamic intellectual history.
“Fire Cannot Harm It: Mediation, Temptation, and the Charismatic Power of the Qur’ān,” Journal of Qur’ānic Studies, 10.2 (2008): 50–72. Link
This article examines the theological status of the material Qur’ānic codex by focusing on a range of interpretations to a widely circulated ḥadīth, which states, “If the Qur’ān were written on a hide, fire would not harm it.” This particular saying appears as a flashpoint in a series of on-going debates, which begin prominently during the ninth century concerning the otherworldly status of the Qur’ān. By exploring the broader implications of these debates, as they inflect Ḥanbalī, Mu‘tazilī, Imāmī, Ash‘arī, and Māturīdī theological positions, this article demonstrates how broad disputes over the eternality and inimitability of the Qur’ān shaped the status of scripture as a material object.
“From Drops of Blood: Charisma and Political Legitimacy in the translatio of the ʿUthmānic codex of al-Andalus,” Journal of Arabic Literature, 39 (2008): 321–46. Link
The account of the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf of Córdoba, which passed from generation to generation across has played a prominent role in the historical memory of al-Andalus and the Maghrib. The prized codex appears throughout historiographical and literary discourses, stretching from the Hispano-Umayyad caliphate to the dynasty of the Banū Marīn in North Africa. Brought into battle against Christians and fellow Muslims, decorated with ornate coverings, and made into the object of countless panegyrics, the ‘Uthmānic codex of al-Andalus offers a glimpse into a sustained network of meaning and power. The codex came to symbolically align successive Muslim dynasties to the early history of Islam. Drawing attention to the parallel phenomena of the furta sacra and the translatio of relics in medieval Christian tradition, this article explores the broader political, religious, and literary dimensions, which silhouette the veneration toward the ‘Uthmānic codex.