seminari alta scuola – qur’anic exegesis beyond the arab world: towards a cosmopolitan approach to islamic studies

 15 Febbraio, 14.30-18.30 – 16 Febbraio, 09.00-13.00
(The seminar will be held online)

Johanna Pink (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)

Qur’anic Exegesis Beyond the Arab World: Towards a Cosmopolitan Approach to Islamic Studies


In the 20th and 21st centuries, Muslim scholars, intellectuals, and activists have developed and promoted an increasing number of new approaches to the Qur’an and its interpretation. The Qur’an has taken centre stage in discourses on faith, ethics, and religious practice. Its understanding is negotiated by practicing Muslims of all ranks, in all regions of the world, and in many languages. This includes the languages of Muslim-majority societies and those of diaspora communites, within and outside former centres of colonial empires, the most important of which is English today. The negotiation of the Qur’an’s meaning is shaped by the opportunities and structures provided by the evolution of mass media and, more recently, of social media. And yet, while a YouTube tafsir in English might appear radically different from the kind of qur’anic interpretation contained in pre-modern Arabic commentaries on the Qur’an, in many cases, we will find a genealogical connection to the pre-modern exegetical heritage and to various modern intellectual trends. This seminar uses recent samples of Muslim qur’anic interpretation to discuss their genealogy and context. It sheds light on different ways of analyzing and framing sources, including media, ideologies, the social and political environment, exegetical histories, and intra-Muslim diversity. More fundamentally, conflicts over exegetical authority, the role of the individual, the hermeneutical possibility of ever identifying eternal truth in the Qur’an, and the place of egalitarian and liberal readings of the scripture permeate exegetical discourses and can be explained in terms of intellectual genealogy, media, and structural context.


Johanna Pink is Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Freiburg and the Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded project GloQur – The Global Qur’an. She is a specialist in the history of Qur’anic exegesis and Qur’an translations with a focus on transregional dynamics in the modern period. Her publications include Muslim Qur’anic Interpretation Today: Media, Genealogies and Interpretive Communities (Sheffield: Equinox 2019) and a guest-edited issue of the Journal of Qur’anic Studies on Translations of the Qur’an in Muslim Majority Contexts (2015).

The participation in the seminars is open to the members of the Foundation as well as to scholars and academics who wish to follow them in their entirety, preparing through a series of lectures given in time to the participants: to be admitted is necessary to send an email to Any changes of time or data can be found on the site