Islam and Its Past: Jahiliyya, Late Antiquity, and the Qur'an

Publication Year



This volume has its origins in a conference held at the UCLA G. E. von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies in October 2013 and brings together scholars from various disciplines and fields to consider Islamic revelation, with particular focus on the Qur'an. The collection provides a wide-ranging survey of the development and current state of Qur'anic studies in the Western academy. The issue is what we can learn in this way about the manner in which the “polytheists” of the Qur'an related to the Jewish and Christian traditions: were they Godfearers in the sense familiar from the study of ancient Judaism? It looks at the Qur'an as a text of Late Antiquity, not just considering those features of it that could be seen as normal in that context, but also identifying what is innovative about it against the Late Antique background. Here the focus is on the “believers” rather than the “polytheists.” The volume also engages in different ways with notions of monotheism in pre-Islamic Arabia. This collection provides a broad survey of what has been happening in the field and concrete illustrations of some of the more innovative lines of research that have recently been pursued.


Introduction, Carol Bakhos and Michael Cook
1. Reflections on the State of the Art in Western Quraanic Studies
2. Processes of Literary Growth and Editorial Expansion in Two Medinan Surahs, Nicolai Sinai
3. O Believers, Be not as Those who Hurt Moses : Q 33:69 and its Exegesis, Joseph Witztum
4. Pagan Arabs as God-fearers, Patricia Crone
5. Locating the Qur'an and Early Islam in the Epistemic Space of Late Antiquity, Angelika Neuwirth
6. Were there Prophets in the Jahiliyya?
7. Early Medieval Christian and Muslim Attitudes to Pagan Law: a Comparison, Michael Cook
8. Remarks on Monotheism in Ancient South Arabia, Iwona Gajda


“Overall, the book is thought-provoking and sheds light on different aspects of current Quranic research.” -- Valentina A. Grasso, Garth Fowden, University of Cambridge, Journal of the American Oriental Society

Series Title
Oxford studies in the Abrahamic religions
Oxford University Press