Raymond Farrin draws on classical Arab sources and contemporary literary theory in this groundbreaking literary approach to the Qur’an. Prof. Farrin demonstrates how the Qur’an, often regarded as unsystematic, in fact features a comprehensive design, one characterized by a network of symmetries. He asserts that the Qur’an possesses “a magnificent design” and an impressive coherence. Specifically, Farrin’s analysis of the Qur’an discloses how the principle of symmetry—manifesting in parallel, chiastic, and concentric constructions—holds the text together.
This principle of symmetry obtains on the level of the chapter, the chapter pair, the chapter group, the group system (each system containing numerous chapter groups), and the Qur’an as a whole. Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation, aimed both at readers familiar with the Qur’an and at those opening it for the first time, differs from other books on the Qur’an in that it reveals the text’s fundamental, symmetrical organization. Moreover, through readings of key Qur’an chapters, Farrin shows how structure serves as a guide to interpretation. Indeed, one finds that the Qur’an’s structure again and again points to universal messages of an ethical nature, rather than to messages whose application may be limited to a specific context. In addition, the book makes a contribution to Qur’anic studies by highlighting literary evidence indicating that the Qur’an was compiled by one author (in all probability, the Prophet Muhammad) and not by an official committee.
ENDORSEMENTS & REVIEWS
“Farrin applies to the Qur’an critical tools such as ring composition to argue that the received text of the Qur’an is not a jumble of revelations collected in the years or decades after the death Muhammad, but a carefully composed text filled with deep structural parallels. Scholars will be challenged by this book to pay far more attention to the Qur’an as a whole instead of working on individual suras or even passages with no further context. Not every reader will likely become a “partisan of coherence” (as Farrin clearly is), but all will put down this book with greater respect for the structural unity of the Qur’an and the way this unity can serve as a guide for interpretation.”
—Martyn Smith, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Lawrence University and author of Religion, Culture, and Sacred Space
“Raymond Farrin conducts his research with brilliance and great clarity. Despite the arduous nature of the subject, this book reads with ease and pleasure. It avoids overly specialized language, relegating the most technical aspects to the notes and appendices. Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation incontestably constitutes an important step in the research on the structure of the Qur’anic text.” —Michel Cuypers, author of La Composition du Coran
“Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation draws on social anthropology, literary analysis, and a wide reading of predecessors and contemporaries to offer an engagingly readable account of how structure relates to content in Islam’s key text. Simultaneously emphatic and critical, Farrin’s new book invites readers to understand the Qur’an from a fresh perspective.” —Dale F. Eickelman, Ralph and Richard Lazarus Professor of Anthropology and Human Relations, Dartmouth College