Who Wrote (Down) the Qur'an?
A conference produced in association with the
Middle East Center, University of Pennsylvania

When and how did the oral message of Islam's revelation became a book? Muslims believe the Qur'an is the literal word of God, revealed to Muhammad in the seventh century, transmitted by him orally to listeners in Arabia, and written down by his companions during his lifetime. Within decades of Muhammad's death, Muslim historians say, the faithful were able to hold a canonized Qur'an text in their hands, which is the same as the Arabic Qur'an of today.

Noted scholars—all leading authorities on early Islam and the Qur'anic text—consider the physical process of writing, collecting, and canonizing the earliest Qur'ans (rather than with the authorship of the Qur'an). Several journalistic accounts have appeared recently in the U.S. and Great Britain about the dating of the Qur'an, based on the discovery of early fragments of the Qur'an found in Yemen and about new interpretations of Qur'anic vocabulary. Would the religion of Islam, as the articles suggest, fall apart under historical and critical study of its Holy Book?

Conference participants

Barbara von Schlegell (conference organizer and chair), Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Mahmoud Ayoub, Professor of Islamic Studies and Comparative Religions, Temple University

Patricia Crone, Faculty, Islamic History,
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University

François Déroche, Director of Advanced Studies, Historical and Philological Section, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Sorbonne

Fred Donner, Professor of Near Eastern History, The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

Andrew Rippin, Professor of History and Dean of Humanities, University of Victoria, B.C.

Everett Rowson, Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Pennsylvania



Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Free Library Lewis Collection.

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