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NEAR E 231 A: Introduction To The Quran

NEAR E 231 - Introduction to the Qur'an
Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:10pm - 3:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
Terri Deyoung
Terri L. DeYoung

Syllabus Description:


Religion 212 A

Introduction to the Qur’an

Summer Quarter 2020



Instructor: Terri DeYoung                                                                     Class Location: NA

                                                                                                             SLN Numbers: 12603 and 13447

Office:246 Denny Hall                                                                            Class Time: T-Th 1:10-3:20


Office Hours: By appointment

Telephone: (206)543-6184

or (206)543-6033 (dept. office—leave message)



Course Description: This course will provide students with an introduction to the Qur’an (also spelled Koran), the most influential written work in Arabic, which has had an unmatched impact on the development of Islamic institutions and Islamic literatures for more than 1400 years. The course will emphasize the historical context of the Qur’an’s revelation, the history of the text, its collection, organization, and interpretation. Although the Qur’an was revealed in Arabic (and the understanding of its Arabic vocabulary remains essential to appreciation of the text) the course will be offered in English (no knowledge of Arabic is required)


After an inquiry into the general framework of Islam as a religion (Weeks 1-4), in the second half of the course we will explore the specific role of the Qur’an in Islam and how this framework developed over time. We will be examining 12 Surahs (chapters) of the Quran in this part of the course: 1. Sūrat al-Fātiḥa (#1) 2. Sūrat Āl ‘Imrān (#3) 3. Sūrat Yūsuf (#12), 4. Sūrat al-Kahf (#18), 5. Sūrat al-Nūr (#24), 6. Sūrat al-Shu‘āra’ (#26), 7. Sūrat al-Raḥmān (#55), 8. Sūrat al-Muddaththir (#74), 9. Sūrat al-Takwīr (#81), 10. Sūrat al-‘Alaq (#96), and 11. Sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ (#112)


Learning Objectives for the Course:

               1) To better understand the central text of Islamic civilization, how it has shaped and influenced the development of Islamic societies, and continues to do so.

               2) To examine how Islamic civilization was in turn shaped by assumptions about Scripture in the monotheistic traditions that preceded it.

               3) To learn the basic principles that are considered important in the continuing scholarly conversation about the Qur’an.

               4) To learn to read the Qur’an in an informed and knowledgeable way, and to be able to use secondary literature in this process.


Textbooks: There will be two required textbooks for the course. They are: 1) An Introduction to Islam (4th edition, 2011) by Frederick Mathewson Denny, and 2) How to Read the Qur’an (2011) by Carl W. Ernst. Both are available on-line to students through the University of Washington Library website, or hard-copies may be purchased through the University Bookstore.


               The edition of Denny used for reference in the syllabus and Terms List will be the 4th edition, which is the one available at the University Bookstore and on-line. Older editions of Denny can also used for the readings, but the page numbering may be different. We will begin using Denny the first week of classes, so you should make access to this text a priority


               . In addition, two websites in particular will be useful for this course: 1) (it has side by side comparisons of different translations of the Qur’an, including the most widely used translation (by Yusuf ‘Ali) and the most recent standard translation (Sahih International), and 2) (not to be confused with, which is a different site). This site contains complete texts (linked to the ayahs (verses) of each surah (chapter) of various authoritative tafāsīr (commentaries) on the Qur’an. There will be lectures during the third or fourth weeks of the courses detailing how to use these websites.


               Other material will be distributed by the professor through e-mail attachment and posted on Canvas during the quarter. Please speak to her as soon as possible if you do not think you can access material through either of these methods.



Course Requirements

Exams: There will be three exams for the course. Two of them will be quizzes. The first will be tentatively scheduled for Thursday 9 July 2020 (based on a list of terms to be distributed the first week of classes). The second midterm is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday 21 July 2020. It will be based on a second list of terms that will be distributed no later than Friday 10 July 2020. The exact format of these quizzes will be set during the quarter.


                        There will also be a take-home Final Exam (due date will tentatively be the last day of exam week).It will be based on a set of questions distributed no later than 3 class sessions before the end of the course.


The Quizzes will count for 20% of the total grade, and the Take-Home Final Exam will count for 30%.

            Students will have the option to substitute (with the instructor’s permission, obtained at least two weeks in advance of the end of classes) a final paper (usually about 5-8 pages in length) for the take-home final exam. This paper will be due on the same day as the final exam.


Other Assignments: 15% of the grade for the course will be based on three 2 pp. papers due during the quarter

                        The topic of the first essay will be “Why am I taking this course and what do I hope to learn from it?” It will be due on Monday June 29, 2020 at midnight.

                        The topic of the second essay will be “Which video is a better introduction to the study of the Qur’an, “The Secrets of the Qur’an” (originally shown on the History Channel, 2006) or “Inside the Qur’an” (originally shown on the National Geographic Channel, 2008)? It will tentatively be due on Monday July 13, 2020 at midnight.

                        The topic of the third essay will be: “Which is the better approach to the study of the Quranic surahs: the order they are placed in the muṣḥaf of the Qur’an, or the order of their revelation?” It will tentatively be due Monday July 27 at midnight


If you have any questions about the topic or the due date of these essays, please feel free to ask Professor DeYoung as soon as possible


If you are dissatisfied with your grade on any of these writing assignments, you may correct the marked passages and comments on the text Prof. DeYoung returns to you, and re-submit the essay for a higher grade. Sunday 9 August, 2020 is the last date on which a re-submitted essay will be accepted for re-grading.




                        30% of the grade for the course will be based on 3 post-discussion reflections to be submitted to Canvas following the Zoom sessions about three of the surahs we will be looking at during the quarter: Surat al-Shu‘arah (26), Surat al-Kahf (18) and Surat Yusuf (12)




                        The remaining 5% of the grade will be based on in-class participation. This means that you will be expected to have read the “Primary Readings” before coming to class, and do whatever other reading is necessary so that you can participate actively in the class discussions. Regular attendance (according to University Regulations) will not be included in this portion of the grade, so it is up to the student to participate in the class discussion, in order to receive full credit for "class participation." If for any reason, you are not able to attend a Zoom session, but you want to receive credit for in-class participation, you should make arrangements for an office hour conference with Professor DeYoung.


                        Any of these assignments, if turned in or completed late, may be subject to an automatic .3 deduction from the grade originally assigned. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all assignments are submitted on time and in readable format to the instructor.




Plagiarism: Plagiarism occurs whenever someone uses the ideas or writings of another as their own without giving due credit. This applies to both exams and papers. All policies in place concerning academic honesty at the University of Washington apply to this course. It is the student’s responsibility to become fully informed about those policies. Refer to the University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478120), for more information on the subject, or Search “Student Academic Responsibility” on the University of Washington homepage.




Religious Accommodation starting in Autumn 2019, the University of Washington will be implementing the following new policy about arrangements for religious observances:


“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”

More information on the policy is available on the webpage for the Office of the University Registrar.



Access to the class: You will need to make arrangements to have access to our course Canvas website: and to our virtual meeting space which will be conducted via Zoom Video Conferencing . You will also need to have access to a camera and audio on your computer in order to participate in the sessions.

You will be prompted to sign into our Zoom sessions with your UW Net- ID which will allow you to join our online sessions when we begin TTh 1:10-3:20. Access to both platforms (Canvas and Zoom) will be necessary for completing homework assignments and for earning class participation points.


For Students with Special Needs: If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the instructor as soon as possible so we can discuss the accommodations you might need for the class.


Classroom Courtesy: If you think you may have to leave early or arrive late to a class, please let the instructor know in advance.

            Since the consumption of food during the lecture can interfere with class participation and maybe distracting to others, students are requested to avoid this in the Zoom sessions. Your cooperation will be appreciated by everyone.


Class Breaks. Whenever possible, there will be a break of approximately 10 minutes halfway through the Zoom sessions. This will be an opportunity for students to conduct any personal business necessary outside of the classroom.



Course Readings


Required Texts: These are: 1) An Introduction to Islam (4th edition, 2011) by Frederick Mathewson Denny, and 2) How to Read the Qur’an (2011) by Carl W. Ernst. Both are available on-line to students through the University of Washington Library website, or hard-copies may be purchased through the University Bookstore.

                                The edition of Denny used for reference in the syllabus and Terms List will be the 4th edition, which is the one available at the University Bookstore and on-line. Older editions of Denny can also used for the readings, but the page numbering may be different. Both the two assigned texts are currently available at the University Bookstore. We will begin using Denny the first week of classes, so you should make access to this text a priority


All the Primary Readings for the course will be either taken from An Introduction to Islam, How to Read the Qur’an or from articles posted on Canvas.


Recommended Readings listed in the “Assignments” are for the most part available from the University of Washington Library webpage as e-books or from the National Emergency Library.


Supplemental Readings will mostly be found in the Suzzallo/Allen Library, either in the “Reference” area or in the stacks.


You should see the instructor if you have any difficulty obtaining one of these recommended or supplemental readings. She can help you find the latest information about the resource(s) you want to consult.



Recommendations: Professor DeYoung will be happy to write a recommendation for any student who receives a 4.0 in this course or any other of her courses.


Exam Comments: If you would like to have your Final Exam questions (or your paper) returned to you (with comments), please leave off a hard copy, with a stamped, self-addressed envelope in Professor DeYoung’s box in the NELC Main Office (Denny Hall), or make arrangements to pick them up in Autumn Quarter 2020.





Background Reading

Many new and useful critical works about the Qur’ān have become available in the last few years, but the absolutely essential resource for information about all aspects of the Qur’ān remains the new edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam (1953-to-date), which is available on-line in Suzzallo under the call number DS37 E5 1960. It is also available on-line. A new reference work (which, unlike the EI, uses English-language terms for the titles of its articles) is The Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an (2001-to date), ed. by Jane Dammen McAuliffe. It is available in the Suzzallo reference stacks, PJ7510 E53 1998. Additional useful material about the Qur’ān from a religious standpoint can be found in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade et al, BL31 .E46 2005 (available in Odegaard and Suzzallo reference stacks).

                The basic bibliographical reference work for articles and (in some cases) monographs on Islamic subjects written in European languages is the Index Islamicus (Z7835 M6 L6), which is available in the Suzzallo reference stacks and on-line. There is, unfortunately, still no comprehensive reference work for articles on these subjects in Arabic.

Introductory Studies: If this is your first contact with Qur’ānic studies, you may want to read a short basic introduction to the text. Probably the best general introduction can be found in Chapter 6 (pp. 130-49) of An Introduction to Islam, by Frederick Matthewson Denny (one of the textbooks assigned for this course). Chapters 4 and 5 of Richard Bell’s An Introduction to the Qur’an (Call Number: BP130 B4 1970) may also be helpful. The same is true of Angelika Neuwirth’s chapter, “Structural and Linguistic Features (of the Qur’an), pp. 970113 of The Cambridge Companion to the Qur’an (Call Number: 130.4 C36 2006, on reserve in Odegaard). For an introduction to the text that treats the Qur’ān from a more literary/cultural standpoint, see An Introduction to Arabic Literature by Roger Allen, PJ7510 A43 2000 (on reserve on Odegaard). Or you may consult Professor DeYoung’s article (“The Qur’an”) in the recently published Middle Eastern Literature and Its Times (vol. 8 of World Literature and Its Times), ed. Joyce Moss (Call Number: PJ307 M67 2004), which will also be available on reserve for this course.

Translations of the Qur’ān: For a long time Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Qur’ān was frequently used in courses of this kind because it is generally accurate and has the original Arabic facing the translation. It is readily available, inexpensive (often available for free) and is one of several translations available on the website. Caution must exercised when using the commentary. Mr. Ali was a member of the Ahmadiyya sect, and his commentary reflects the beliefs of that group of Muslims, whose ideas are not all acceptable to every member of the Islamic community at large.

                Approximately twenty years ago, a new translation, by a Muslim professor of philosophy at the American University in Beirut, Majid Fakhry (and approved by the Institute of Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University), became available. The style is deliberately archaizing, and is thus inferior to Yusuf Ali’s translation. More recently, The Qur'an, A New Translation. By M.A.S. Abdel-Haleem has been published by Oxford University Press. Professor Haleem is an excellent Qur’anic scholar and his translation is very fine, but the text only includes the translation without the original Arabic. This, too, makes it inferior to Yusuf Ali’s edition as a reference work. Both Fakhri’s and Haleem’s translation, however, are acceptable for this course

                In 2015, a translation called The Study Quran, compiled by a number of well-known Quranic scholars under the overall supervision of the eminent scholar of Islam, Seyyed Hossein Nasr. It uses an archaizing style and does not have a facing Arabic original along with the translation. The Study Quran is notable for appending to each surah a lengthy commentary on the text, which can be very helpful for those unfamiliar with the background and context of the text’s revelation. The commentary, however, has been criticized for giving equal weight to important and marginal commentaries, something that leaves the reader often uncertain and even confused about the ways particular passages have been interpreted. The translation itself has been quite highly praised, so the text is acceptable as a resource for this course.

                If you want to look at other translations, a group of authoritative versions in English can be found on the website or through the Wikipedia article on the Qur’an. For some guidance to finding the translation best suited to your needs, see Khaled Muhammad, “Assessing English Translations of the Qur’an,” Middle East Quarterly 12.2 (Spring 2005):58-71. It contains some very useful insights into the selection process, though, of course, the conclusions do reflect the author’s personal preferences. More recently, Prof. Bruce Lawrence (Duke University) published a study of the various historical attempts at translation of the Qur’an into English: The Qur’an in English (2017).

Concordances to the Qur’an: A concordance lists all the words to be found in a particular written work. Though concordances are not limited to religious texts, all widely available scriptures do have concordances . There are many concordances to the Qur’an available in Arabic. A recent and useful one is Muhammad Rushdi al-Zayn, Al-Mu‘jam al-Mufahris li-Ma‘ani al-Qur’an al-Azim in the Suzzallo stacks. Call number BP133 M855 1995. The only concordance in English is by Hanna E. Kassis (Call Number: BP133 K37 1983). It has a very unusual system of organization, however, so before using it you may want to consult the instructor.

Thematic Guides to the Qur’ān: There are many thematic guides to the Qur’ān (or, more precisely, guides to its contents arranged thematically). Two recent volumes that may prove especially useful for research are Faruq Sherif, A Guide to the Contents of the Qur’an, BP130 .S538 1995, and Anton Wessels, Understanding the Qur’an, BP132 W4713 2000.

Guides to Other Scriptures (for comparative purposes): Perhaps the most accessible (and useful) introduction to this question can be found in the textbook frequently assigned at the University of Washington, Jews, Christians and Muslims: A Comparative Introduction to Monotheistic Religions by John Corrigan, Frederick M. Denny, Carlos M.N. Eire and Martin S. Jaffee. Part 1, “Scripture and Tradition,” is especially helpful. For study of the compilation of the New Testament, I recommend Bruce M. Metzger’s The Canon of the New Testament (available in Odegaard BS2320 M47 1987). The literature on the development of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible canon is vast, stimulated by the discovery of the oldest manuscripts of these scriptures among the Dead Sea scrolls (after World War II).Good overviews of scholarship in this area can be found in Harold H. Rowley, The Growth of the Old Testament, BS1140 R66 and William O.E. Oesterley, Introduction to the Books of the Old Testament, BS1140 O4 (both in the Odegaard stacks).   Also worth reading in this regard is the section on “The Old Testament” by Robert Alter in The Literary Guide to the Bible, BS511.2 L58 1987 (available in Odegaard). An excellent comparative introduction to the oral dimension of the various scriptural texts can be found in William A. Graham, Beyond the Written Word, BL71 G7 1987 (available in Odegaard).

Discussions of Qur’ānic Recitation: The oral recitation of the Qur’ānic text is central to Islamic culture and the appreciation of the text in Muslim societies. The first study of the practice available in English was the now-classic The Art of Reciting the Qur’an by Kristina Nelson (on reserve in Odegaard BP131.6 N44 1985). More recently Michael Sells has written sensitively on the subject as part of his book, Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations (on reserve in Odegaard BP130.4 S43 1999). We will be examining his descriptions of the practice toward the end of this quarter. William Graham’s book (mentioned above) is also helpful in understanding the function of the oral Qur’an in Islamic culture.

The Arabic Language and the Pre-Islamic Period. For linguistic study of Arabic and its evolution, especially prior to the rise of Islam, Kees Versteegh’s The Arabic Language(1997) provides indispensable information. It is available in Odegaard (PJ6075 V46 1997). An older but still useful book is Anwar Chejne’s The Arabic Language. Irfan Shahid’s four-volume study of Byzantium and the Arabs ( in stacks of Odegaard, DS62.25 + various) in the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries C.E. similarly provides exhaustive information about Arab society prior to Islamic times.

General Reading on the Culture and History of Islam: Two books in this area can be recommended. The first is Albert Hourani’s History of the Arab Peoples (1991), which is well-written and highly informative introductory work. The second is Marshall Hodgson’s The Venture of Islam (1974). This was the first book to apply modern methods of historiography and cultural analysis to the study of the medieval Islamic world. It is not well-written, but underneath the surface it contains some of the most astute analyses of medieval Islamic culture yet attempted. Copies of both books are available in Suzzallo and Odegaard libraries. You can also generally find copies for sale on used-book sites like Abe Books on the internet

Catalog Description: 
A literary, historical, and theological introduction to the Quran. Looks at the historical circumstances of the text's compilation; its collection and redaction; its narrative structure; its rhetorical strategies; its major themes; it connections to and departures from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament; commentary and exegesis; translation; and its impact on political and religious thought. Offered: jointly with RELIG 212.
GE Requirements: 
Social Sciences (SSc)
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
April 28, 2020 - 12:07pm