The al-Baqara Crescendo

Understanding the Qur'an's Style, Narrative Structure, and Running Themes

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Nevin Reda
  • Montreal, Quebec: 
    McGill-Queen's University Press
    , February
     264 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


A study of the poetics and hermeneutics of the Qur’an’s narrative structure, focusing on Surat al-Baqara.

Recent manuscript evidence from al-Jami` al-Kabir in San ‘a’ suggests that the Qur’an took its final shape well before 671 CE. Irrespective, however, of who composed it or when it was compiled, questions remain about whether the Qur’an followed any kind of preconceived plan or compositional schema that makes sense in today’s world.

In The al-Baqara Crescendo, Nevin Reda introduces a bold new avenue of research: the poetics of Qur'anic narrative structure. Focusing on Surat al-Baqara, the longest and most challenging of the suras, she explores the beauty and rationale behind the Qur'an’s unusual organization. Reda argues that the sura - often dismissed by Muslim traditionalists and Orientalist critics as a baffling collection of disjointed material - can be appreciated as a coherent composition if it is approached as a spoken text. Calling attention to oral organizational techniques such as repetition, this book’s repertoire of figures showcases Surat al-Baqara’s ingenious layout and pinpoints the sophisticated meanings that are embedded within it. Incorporating insights from literary theory and Biblical studies, the author advances inclusivity and intercultural bridge-building in the study of scripture.

In an engaging narrative that is bound to captivate and challenge the reader, Reda communicates a deep love and thorough command of her subject, all while presenting a significant new development in Islamic feminist hermeneutics.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Nevin Reda is Assistant Professor of Muslim Studies at Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto.


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