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The Living Quran


Admission requirements

This class is intended (in order of preference) for:

  • (1) students of BA 2 Midden-Oostenstudies / BA 3 Midden-Oostenstudies - Islamstudies, who completed Seminar Midden-Oosten 1

  • (2) premaster students for the MA Middle Eastern Studies;

  • (3) students from BA Midden-Oostenstudies and other programmes. To ensure this course is not over-enrolled, students from other programmes interested in taking the course should contact the education coordinator.


From ancient graffiti, manuscripts, murals, and public monuments to television, social media, and madrasas – the Quran is present in every conceivable medium, sustaining a global conversation of extraordinary breadth, diversity and vibrancy. The text of the Quran has been amazingly stable and well-defined since its recording in the seventh century C.E. This textual continuity might give the impression of a static and unchanging tradition, and surely it is sometimes presented as such. But when we look at how Muslims and non-Muslims have handled the Quran, we see that attitudes do differ over time and places. In this course, we explore the production and reception of the Quran as a text and a material object throughout the centuries. We will investigate the intricacies of the Quran’s text, the complexity of its interpretations, and the variety of its appearance by looking at material and real-life examples. From the debate about the creation of the Quran to the first European translations and contemporary feminist commentaries, we will also examine how different readings of the Quran came into being and how over time these informed fundamental discussions about what it means to be a Muslim. We will also discuss the extent to which various understandings of the Quranic text are reflected in human and societal behaviour.

Course objectives

In this course we study the Quran as a material text, a literary text, and an interpreted text. We look at how people have approached to Quran as a historical phenomenon as well as a living tradition. Students will gain familiarity with the Quran’s text, structure and history, and they will learn about related scholarly debates. First, by looking at the presence of the Quran in the public space and in everyday life – artwork, objects, inscriptions, prayers, poems, amulets, and recitation – students will learn how Muslims and non-Muslims have interacted with the Quran as a sacred text and as a physical object in different places and times. Moreover, they will read parts of the Quran in English translation and they will learn about and compare different translations, both ancient and contemporary. Finally, they will become familiar with extra-Quranic literature, such as classical and modern commentaries. In this way, they will learn about different and competing interpretations of the text. They will be able to understand some important debates surrounding the reading and use of the Quran in different societies.
By learning about resources (reference works, encyclopedias, digital platforms, databases, and digitized collections), the students will be exposed to recent scholarly research on the Quran, including academic conversations that are taking place in the public sphere and on social media. They will be exposed to different approaches for studying the Quran (e.g., as a historical source, a literary text, or a source of law). They will learn about online resources and how to use them responsibly.
Through the weekly assignments and presentations, they will become familiar with and think about some important points of scholarly and public controversy in the study and use of the Quran. By writing two papers, they will learn to analyze texts and objects and to present their insights in written form according to academic standards. They will also be encouraged to work collaboratively with their peers during in-class exercises and team debates.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


The assessment for this course has four components: participation; oral presentation; quiz; written assignments.

The grade for participation takes into account: that the students show to have prepared for class by completing all readings and assignments; that they engage with their peers in class and make an effort to work collaboratively; that they ask relevant questions and make relevant comments. Students are expected to contribute actively to the discussion.

Each student will give a presentation based on the weekly assignments and debate topics. These will be detailed in the Syllabus. The grade for the presentation will take into account the effort put into preparing before class and the presentation skills during class.

In addition to one quiz (in-class), each student will write two short papers (1,500 words each) on assigned topics. These papers are take-home written assignments. Detailed instructions about the two papers will be provided by the instructor. The grade for each paper will take into consideration: preparation and study; accuracy and comprehension of the assigned materials; engagement with the task; appropriateness of style and academic language.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average. The class can only be completed when all components have been completed (not necessarily with a passing grade).

  • Attendance and Participation: 20%

  • Presentation: 15%

  • Quiz: 15%

  • Written papers (2): 50%


If the weighted average of the three grades is not a passing grade, students will have the chance to take a resit exam to increase the weighted average to a passing grade. In this case, the resit exam will count for 50% of the total grade.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Michael Cook, The Koran. A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

  • While we will look at various translations, everyone should have access to one of the following two English translation of the Quran: N.J. Dawood, “The Koran”. Penguin Classics, 2003; M. A. Abdel Haleem, “The Qur’an: A new translation”. Oxford University press, 2004.

  • Additional weekly readings. All information will be detailed in the Syllabus and on Brightspace.

Each week the students will read ca. 40-60 verses from the Quran in English translation and ca. 40-50 pages of secondary literature (from Cook's Koran and assigned readings).


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar on the right.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: De Vrieshof.


Please note that the additional course information is an integral part of this course description.