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The Jewish Discovery of Islam Revisited
From the oldest European Christian engagements with the Qur’an in the Middle Ages through the advent of modern academic approaches to the Muslim scripture, scholars have frequently seen qur’anic narratives on the biblical prophets and related subjects as the result of formative Jewish influences on the Prophet Muhammad. This approach to the origins of Islam has become enshrined in modern Qur’anic Studies due to the groundbreaking research of Abraham Geiger in his 1833 work What Has Muhammad Borrowed from Judaism? Although contemporary scholarship has shifted away from the problematic, reductionist emphasis on “influence” that once characterized research on biblical narratives in the Qur’an, Geiger’s role as a bridge figure between medieval ecclesiastical polemical discourse and the modern discipline of Qur’anic Studies has yet to be fully explored and appreciated. In this talk, Michael Pregill will discuss Geiger’s context and methodology, and posit that many of Geiger’s insights about the Jewish sources of qur’anic themes and episodes are still valuable for contemporary scholarship—including, paradoxically, in those cases when Geiger is actually wrong.
Event Co-Sponsored by the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies
Michael E. Pregill is a scholar of comparative religion, focusing on the scriptural cultures of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Much of his research focuses on the reception of biblical, Jewish, and Christian traditions in the Qur’an and Islam. His monograph The Golden Calf between Bible and Qur’an: Scripture, Polemic, and Exegesis from Late Antiquity to Islam (Oxford University Press, 2020) is the recipient of the 2021 American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion (Textual Studies). He is currently a lecturer at Chapman University in Orange, California; a visiting scholar at the Dornsife School of Religion at the University of Southern California; and a postdoctoral fellow of the ERC Synergy Project ‘The European Qur’an,’ pursuing a new project entitled “Re-Orienting Geiger: Revisiting the Jewish Foundations of Western Qur’anic Studies.”