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Introduction to the Quran: The Scripture of Islam

  • Job DurationedX
  • Job Duration9 weeks long, 5-7 hours a week
  • Job DurationFree Online Course (Audit)

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According to Islamic tradition, the Quran is not simply an inspired scripture. It is a divine book brought down from heaven by the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad, and its message is the key to heaven. Join us for an exploration of the scripture that is the word of God to over a billion people.

This course will introduce you to various aspects of the Quran, including its basic message, the historical context in which it originated, the diverse ways in which Muslims have interpreted it, and its surprisingly intimate relationship with the Bible. By the end of the course, you will gain an appreciation for the perspectives of Muslim believers and academic scholars alike on the origins and the meaning of the Islamic scripture. No background in Islam or Arabic is necessary for this course.

Join us as we discover a text which inspires many and remains at the heart of fascinating scholarly debates.


Week 1: The Structure of the Quran
Introduction to the shape of the Quran (its chapters or “Suras” and verses, the traditional classification of those chapters as “Meccan” or “Medinan”) and its literary qualities, especially rhyme.
Week 2: Themes of the Quran
Examination of the major elements of the Quranic message: punishment stories, heaven and hell, divine signs in nature, and arguments for its own validity as divine scripture.
Week 3: The God of the Quran
Consideration of the Quran’s insistence on a God who is transcendent and powerful; introduction to the “unforgivable sin” of associating something with God and to the Quran’s accusations against Christians of theological errors.
Week 4: The Context of the Quran’s Origins
Discussion of Islamic traditions of pre-Islamic Arabia and the birth and career of Muhammad; discussion of the ways in which later Muslims constructed his biography with special attention to the story of his night journey to Jerusalem.
Week 5: The Revelation, Proclamation, and Codification of the Quran
Introduction to both traditional Islamic and western academic perspectives on the question of how the Quran became a written text as we know it now.
Week 6: Exegesis of the Quran
Examination of the principal methods of Islamic commentary on the Quran, including the classical period, the modern and contemporary period, and a reflection on the role of the Quran in shaping Islamic law.
Week 7: Hebrew Bible / Old Testament Figures
Consideration of the ways in which the Quran presents characters from the Old Testament including Adam, Noah, and Moses.
Week 8: New Testament and Christianity
Discussion of the Quranic presentation of New Testament figures such as Jesus and the disciples, and of Christians and the Bible more generally.
Week 9: Concluding Lecture and Exam

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