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Postdoctoral researcher in the Canonization of the Quran Reading Traditions

Project Description
The canonisation of the Quranic reading traditions ( qirāʾāt) goes back to the 10th c. scholar ibn Mujahid who established the canon. Up until recently, it was thought that his work functioned as our historical horizon- everything we can know about the pre-canonical situation is filtered through his choices and thinking. However, there are hundreds of Quranic manuscripts from the time preceding the canonisation stretching back at least to the beginning of the 8th c. that make use of diacritics to instruct the reader. These pre-canonical reading traditions provide a vista into the pre-history of Quranic recitation, yet they have so far gone almost entirely unstudied. The ERC Consolidator grant project QurCan aims to mine these rich historical sources to understand what Quran recitation was like before ibn Mujahid, how the reading traditions developed, and how this led to the crystallized canon that we know today.

Key Responsibilities
The postdoctoral researcher will conduct a historical study into the study of the canonisation of the Quranic reading traditions, integrating both the traditional Islamic sources on the project, as well as the primary manuscript data that will be collected over the course of the project. The QurCan project will, for the first time, provide direct insight into which reading traditions were popular in the pre-canonical period, and which ones have been lost altogether. With this increased access to primary source material, it will for the first time be possible to address directly the question when certain reading traditions rose to prominence, and where. Therefore, the process of canonisation can finally be studied with direct systematically described sources that predate the canonisation, which will also furnish further ability to contextualize the pre-canonical fragmentary accounts in the pre-canonical sources.

One of the impediments to understanding the establishment of the Canon of the Quranic text comes from the fact that the earliest systematic description of reading traditions is the same text that established the canon of those reading traditions. While there are surviving works that precede the canonisation that discuss different readings, no systematic descriptions of complete traditions survive. As a result, it is difficult to decide how anonymous mention of fragments of readings should be viewed, and how these early mentions of recitations of the Quran should be understood in the development of the canon.

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24-01-2023 Leiden University