by ELLIOTT BAZZANO for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on MAY 6, 2015:
Michael Birkel‘s Qur’an in Conversation (Baylor University Press, 2014) challenges its readers to think deeply about the Qur’an. The book will likely leave the reader with many answers but also many questions. By drawing on academic scholars, imams, lawyers, and activists this edited volume presents a series of compelling, masterfully written, digestible, and personal accounts of the Qur’an.
It addresses tough questions about violence, gender, interfaith relations, and authority, but not in an apologetic manner. The authors make clear that the Qur’an is not merely an old text, but also a living text, teeming with evolving interpretations and debates. Because all of the writers are based in the United States, moreover, the Qur’an in Conversation seamlessly incorporates discussions of the Qur’an with contemporary issues in American culture.
It thus becomes clear that the Qur’an is an American text as well as an Arabic text and a Muslim text. The chapters are arranged thematically, and one could reasonably read them sequentially or not, depending on the purpose. The text, therefore, offers a range of pedagogical functions and is sure to benefit classroom use, especially because of its readable and erudite prose. Birkel has set a high bar for future edited volumes that follow models anything like Qur’an in Conversation.
LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH BIRKEL
In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.