Epistemology of the “genesis of the Qur’an” between the 19th and 20th centuries: the contributions of German, French, and English Qur’anic Studies

Sana Abu Antoun

Sana Bou Antoun joined the OIB in 2022 for a duration of 12 months as an affiliated PhD student. She is a PhD Student in the Department of Arabic Studies at Sorbonne Université in Paris. She is currently the recipient of the French Institute of Islamic Studies’ Doctoral Scholarship (2022-2023) and was between 2020 and 2021 the holder of the Doctoral Scholarship of the Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies and the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology and IFAO in Cairo.

Her main research’s interests are the Quran’s genesis, its textual and historical relationship with Jewish and Christian texts and the epistemology of Quranic and Islamic studies in the West. Her research analyzes the epistemic, conceptual, and methodological foundations of Qur’anic Studies. More specifically, she examines the “fabric of knowledge” process in Orientalist studies that focused on the role that played biblical and parabiblical sources in the Qur’an’s genesis.

Sana Bou Antoun obtained a bachelor degree in Humanities and French Literature (Sorbonne Université) in 2015, a Master’s degree in Public Affairs (Sciences po Paris) in 2017 and a Master’s degree in Arabic Studies from Sorbonne Université (Paris) in 2020.

Sana Bou Antoun’s dissertation, untitled “Epistemology of the “genesis of the Qur’an” between the 19th and 20th centuries: the contributions of German, French, and English Qur’anic Studies”, explores the conceptual and methodological foundations of Quranic Studies. The scarcity of material evidence on the genesis of the Qur’an, divine for Islamic tradition, human for Western academic research, is challenging for Qur’an’s specialists. The context of its emergence, defined by Arabic sources as the polytheistic Ḥiǧāz, cannot explain, for the Orientalist tradition, the formation of the first monotheistic Arabic sacred text. Replacing it in broader contexts, those of Arabia as a whole, and “Late antiquity”, could partly explain the enigmatic genesis of the Holy Book, as well as its original meaning. In order to meet this challenge, historical and textual methods have been used. Sana Bou Antoun undertakes the history of this inquiry that shapes European Islamic Studies. In this respect, she examines the “fabric of knowledge” process by studying the argumentative discourse of seven major studies in the field, from the beginning of the 19th century to the dawn of decolonization. The pillars of these theories aiming at reconstructing the Qur’an’s genesis, examined in a systematic way and by making a selection of key passages, include axioms and postulates, hypotheses, materials, modes of reasoning, terminology and conclusions. Uncertainty regarding the emergence and development of the Qur’an remains a source of pluralistic approaches. Her results shed new light on contemporary debates by creating links between former and contemporary Quranic Studies’ episteme and by studying the evolution of Western academic research on the subject. Her assessment of the contribution of her sources thus leads to a “critical genealogy” of Quranic Studies.

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